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What is SEO? A quick explanation of SEO, what it is, how it works, and key terms to understand.

Updated: Jan 5

What is SEO Graphic

What Exactly is SEO?

Launching a website is not an “if you build it they will come” situation. There is a lot of thought that needs to go into the layout, ease of use, structure, and content that a site displays. It is important to keep in mind that a search engine’s main concern is providing people with quality search results that are relevant to what they are searching for. If they are not able to provide this, people will lose trust in the search engine’s ability to help them answer their queries and eventually will stop using that search engine. This is where SEO comes into play.

So, what is SEO? SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” SEO is the term commonly used to describe the process of making your website easy and desirable for search engines, such as Google and Bing, to find, analyze, and display as a search result when someone is searching online for a topic related to the information your site provides. The ultimate goal of SEO is to land a website as the first search result that search engine users see when searching for a topic that is relevant to the information your website provides. For instance, if the purpose of your website is to sell golf tees, you want your website to be the first one people see when they search for terms such as “best golf tee to use” or “best golf tee for beginners.”

According to a study done by Forbes (Article Here) only about 1% of search users make it to the second page of results. If your site is not on that first page of results, it is highly unlikely that anyone is going to come to your site as a result of the search they are performing. This really goes to show that a strong SEO strategy and proper execution is critical in seeing website traffic driven by organic search results.

How Does SEO Work?

Since Google captures the lion’s share of search inquiries we will focus on their search result practices for the purpose of this writing. The acronym commonly used to describe the traits Google looks for in a website is E-E-A-T, which stands for; Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Google uses bots to crawl the internet and learn about the content on websites. These bots work around the clock to update Google’s internal index of what is online. That index is where search results are pulled from when a search is performed.

There are approximately 200 variables in the algorithms that Google uses to determine if a site exhibits E-E-A-T which results in determining what search results to display, and where to place them in the display order. These variables are used to grade your website against others using positive and negative factors. Included in the positive factors are; having quality original content, and having your written and visual content labeled and titled accurately. Negative factors that you want to avoid include; having duplicate and/or plagiarized content, broken links, spam comments on posts, and including a ton of irrelevant keywords in your page content. Positive traits such as original and accurate content help to show experience, expertise, and trustworthiness. Negative traits such as spam comments and irrelevant keywords go against building trustworthiness.

The content on a site is not the only factor that helps to show Google that it is worthy of a high ranking search display slot. Other sites directing traffic to that website is also a large factor in search ranking. These links on other sites that point back to your site are called “backlinks.” Remember earlier when you saw the link to the Forbes article? That link acts as a backlink for the Forbes website. Clicking that will take you to the article we cited data from. Backlinks boost search ranking for a few reasons. One of which is that it directs those bots to the site they are linking to, and aids in discoverability. Just as importantly, it shows that other sites trust the linked site enough to suggest their viewers check it out as well. Think of it like referring your friend to the mechanic you use. You likely would only make that referral if you trust that mechanic and think that they do quality work. The same concept applies to backlinks, they are like online referrals.

The overall structure and build of a website is also another determining factor in how it ranks. Pages that load quickly are likely to outrank ones with a slow speed. Ones that also include appropriate links to other pages on the site, such as a link to the contact page that is set up like: Click Here to Contact Signal Marketing, will help in website usability and boosting of ranking.

With SEO requiring several angles to a proper strategy, it is not something overnight results are seen in. It is an ongoing process that needs to be executed, monitored, and tweaked over time. To help keep you organized DOWNLOAD OUR FREE SEO CHECKLIST HERE.

Important SEO Terms to Know:

It is pretty easy to go down a rabbit hole when it comes to researching SEO. You are sure to come across a lot of jargon and terms that are not found in everyday conversation. Here is a brief list of terms, and quick definitions, that you should be aware of when embarking on your SEO knowledge journey.

Alt Text - Alt Text is used to help bots learn what an image is. It is a short piece of text that is embedded into the description of an image describing what that image is. For example, the image below might have alt text saying “two sleeping bears”

Two Sleeping Bears
Two Bears Sleeping

Backlinks - Backlinks are links on other sites that direct back to your website. These are often used when another website uses content from your site and cites your page as the source, or is mentioning your company/product/service on their site and would like to easily direct their visitors to your site. An example of this would be if we were doing a blog article about event service companies and included a line such as “UAP Event Services is our go to vendor for helping us put on amazing events for our clients.” That link to the website for UAP Event Services counts as a backlink to that company’s website.

Black Hat SEO/ Black Hat Techniques - Black Hat SEO or Black Hat Techniques are dishonest and unethical ways to try to enhance a website’s ranking and overall SEO performance. These tactics do not help the internet searcher solve their query and ultimately end up getting a website penalized for utilizing them. Examples of black hat SEO techniques include cloaking and keyword stuffing, both of which are touched on below.

Broken Link - A broken link often results in landing on a 404 Error page. These occur when the page a link is pointed towards no longer exists. Broken links work against your SEO efforts as they detract from the user experience.

Cloaking - Cloaking is a black hat SEO tactic that attempts to boost search engine rankings by showing a different version of a page or URL to search engines, and another to website viewers. Many times this is done by using a highly ranking webpage URL to redirect users to the page the website owner actually wants them to visit. Another type of cloaking is when a website uses the same color text and background so that the viewer can not see the text, but bots are still able to read and crawl it.

Crawling - Crawling is the term used for the action of a search engine’s bot analyzing the content of a website. In order for a page to be indexed with a search engine the page needs to first be crawled.

External Links - External links are links that point to a website other than the site that the link is actually on. For example, the link to the UAP Event Services page in the “Backlink” term would be an external link since it points to that company’s website, not the Signal Marketing website which this blog is hosted on.

Heading Tag - Heading tags are used to distinguish the different between headers (H1 tags) and sub headings (H2 - H6.) H1 tags are considered to be the most important ones, and they decrease in importance from there with H6 being seen ny bots as the least important heading tag.

Hyperlink - You are likely already familiar with what hyperlinks are. These are the portions of underlined blue text that direct a user to another site. For example This is a hyperlink to The Home Page of the Signal Marketing website.

Internal Links - Internal links are hyperlinks on a site that direct the viewer to other pages in that domain. The hyperlink above, directing you to the Signal Marketing home page, is an internal link because it is directing you to the home page of the same website/domain that this blog page is hosted on.

Keyword - A keyword is a word or phrase that is put into a search engine. Keywords can be a single word, a few words, or full sentences or phrases. When optimizing your site’s SEO it is important to do so with specific keywords in mind.

Keyword (Long Tail) - Long tail keywords are specific search queries that have low search volume when compared to short tail keywords (see below.) These keywords are at the end of the bell curve for search demand, and make up the majority of queries. With the search volume being lower there is less competition for ranking. Long tail keywords are often longer keyword phrases and signal more intent or interest by the person searching. Long tail keywords are usually what sites want to try to rank for.

Keyword (Short Tail) - Short tail keywords are the opposite of long tail keywords. They are generally more broad searches and have many more queries. This results in more competition for ranking. See the image below for a visual representation of long tail vs. short tail keywords.

Visual illustrating long tail vs. short tail keywords
Long Tail vs. Short Tail Keywords

Keyword Stuffing - Keyword stuffing refers to the practice of having an excessive amount of keywords, which you are trying to rank for, in your on page content. Examples of this would be repeating the same keyword or phrases over and over again in your content to the point where it sounds unnatural. This is another black hat SEO technique that will have a negative impact on your SEO performance.

Link Building - Link building is the process of trying to get other sites to link to your site. This is the practice of building out your backlink network.

Meta Description - A meta description is a short summary of your web page, which is coded into the HTML of your page. This meta description is then displayed in search results as the page description. Every page you want people to find through search should have a meta description, as it will give the viewer an idea of what your page is about and how clicking the search result will benefit them.

Organic Traffic - Organic traffic refers to the visitors that come to your webpage naturally, not through paid ads or other paid sources. Strong SEO practices are key to having healthy organic traffic.

Position and/or Ranking - The position/ranking of a page refers to the order in which it is displayed in search engine results. A position in the first ten results has been shown to result in substantially more traffic than when ranked after those first ten positions.

SERP - SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page. These are the results to search engine queries and include organic and paid search results.


SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is an important aspect of website design and online marketing efforts. A quality SEO strategy, that is properly executed, will increase the amount of organic traffic directed to your website. While this can be a tedious and time consuming process, it is well worth it if you are trying to increase traffic to your website. To help keep you on track in your SEO adventure DOWNLOAD OUR FREE SEO CHECKLIST HERE.

We greatly appreciate you taking the time to read this. Be sure to check back regularly for other articles on business and marketing topics. Please SEND US A MESSAGE or SCHEDULE A MEETING WITH A SIGNAL MARKETING REPRESENTATIVE to learn more about how Signal Marketing can help you with your SEO and other marketing needs.

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