What Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

What Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
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What is search engine optimization (SEO)? Search engine optimization is a set of tactics and strategies used both on and off your website to gain more visibility in (organic) search engine results and thereby increase traffic to your site.

SEO is absolutely essential if you intend to grow your traffic, or even just get your website in front of the right audience. It’s all about making your website findable in search at the right times, for the right search terms. There are tactics and strategies to perform that are both on your website (like title tags) and off your website (like link building).

Although performing a few SEO tactics might increase traffic, putting them all together to make sure you don’t miss anything will increase it the most. Think of SEO like a spoked wheel, where the spokes are all SEO tactics. If you use all of them together, the wheel is strong. If you start taking out spokes, you weaken the wheel.

Think of SEO like a spoked wheel, where the spokes are all SEO tactics. If you use all of them together, the wheel is strong. If you start taking out spokes, you weaken the wheel. #SEO Click To Tweet

The top on-page SEO tactics (after performing keyword research) are:

  • Optimization of title tags, meta descriptions, content headings, and image descriptions
  • Using SEO-friendly URLs
  • Using both internal and external contextual links where appropriate and advantageous
  • Making sure your website is fast enough so users don’t bounce

The top off-page SEO tactics are:

  • Link building
  • Creating profiles/having a presence on relevant social media channels
  • Claiming and keeping active your Google My Business listing
  • Having a presence on review sites and responding to any reviews of your business or brand

On-page SEO, off-page SEO, and content strategy all work together to create the best possible plan for increasing traffic, leads, and sales (or whatever your ultimate conversion is).

If you’re doing all of these things together, you’ve got the best plan in place. If you’re trying to do one without the others, it’s going to be much, much harder to gain traffic and business.

Top SEO tactics: further reading

Now that you have a basic idea of SEO and how it works, let’s take a quick dive into a few of the most important SEO tactics.


Keywords have a complicated history. If you associate keywords only with spammy SEO practices, your keyword knowledge is a little bit outdated. While standard practice used to be to use a keyword over and over and over on a page in order to rank in search, that’s no longer how it works. It’s now all about thoughtful keyword placement after first researching what your audience is searching for in the first place.

For more about the evolution of keywords, read: Keywords in SEO: Myth vs. Fact on How They’ve Evolved.

Link building

Link building is another SEO tactic that has evolved steadily over the years and is no longer a spammy practice. Sure, there are still those weirdos out there who attempt to get backlinks by commenting on blogs that are completely unrelated to their product or by making a whole network of fake blogs just for linking purposes, but real SEOs have moved far beyond those practices.

For more about what link building is like (and is NOT like) these days, read: 5 Popular Link Building Myths Debunked.

Content strategy and SEO writing

SEO will not work without a content strategy. Period. Also, SEO and content strategy should never be completely separate tactics. Anyone working on creating content should have a basic knowledge of writing for SEO so that they can give an article a strong SEO base at the outset.

For more on writing with SEO in mind, read: 6 Essential Basic SEO Skills for Marketing Content Writers.


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About the author

Jolissa Skow

An English degree gives me writing skills, 6 years of SEO agency experience gives me digital marketing knowledge, and my content strategy experience rolls all those things together to make one pretty knowledgeable and skilled marketing writer. I'm published on UpCity, Salesforce, G2, and more. I'm also an avid reader and run a book blog in my spare time.