What is SEO?

Search engine optimization is the art of getting more visibility for your website content in search engines.


Last Updated: March 26, 2024

 by Lari Numminen.


As an experienced search engine marketer I often get asked what exactly is SEO. 

Let's go through the basics of search engine optimization. Whether you're a budding entrepreneur, a digital marketing enthusiast, or simply a curious learner, I've got something here for everyone in an easy to follow summary.

What Exactly is SEO?

SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. It involves optimizing various elements of your website to make it more attractive to search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

The goal of SEO is to make your website content easier for search engines and real people to understand. For many SEO professionals, a goal is also to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs), as higher rankings often translate to more traffic and, potentially, more business.

Why is SEO important?

In an age where the internet is saturated with websites and content, standing out is vital. SEO helps you get visibility in this crowded space. When people search for products, services, or information related to your domain, a well-optimized website helps you appear as a top result. This visibility can be crucial for attracting potential customers and establishing an online presence.

Search engine optimization is a relatively competitive space. According to research by backlinko.com, the number 1 organic search result gets 27.6% of all clicks. If you're not in the top few search results, you're unlikely to get any website visitors for a specific term.

The core components of SEO

SEO can be broadly categorized into three core components: on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO.

On-page SEO

On-Page SEO involves optimizing various elements on your website to make it more attractive to search engines. This optimization goes beyond just the content; it includes the underlying HTML source code, the structural elements, and the user experience.

  • Keyword research and optimization: The foundation of on-page SEO is keyword research. It involves identifying the terms and phrases that your target audience uses in their search queries. By integrating these keywords into your website content, meta tags, and URLs, you enhance your site's relevance to these queries.
  • Content quality: Content is at the heart of on-page SEO. Creating original, engaging, and valuable content not only captivates your audience but also signals to search engines that your website is a reputable source of information. Good content can improve your site's dwell time and reduce bounce rates, both of which are beneficial for SEO.
  • Meta tags and descriptions: Meta tags and meta descriptions are HTML elements that provide concise summaries of your webpage content. They appear in the SERPs and play a crucial role in influencing whether a user clicks on your link. Crafting compelling meta descriptions can significantly improve your click-through rates.

Off-page SEO

  • Backlinks: off-page SEO largely revolves around building backlinks – links from other websites to yours. These serve as endorsements of your content, indicating to search engines that others find your site valuable and trustworthy. The focus should be on acquiring high-quality backlinks from reputable and relevant websites.
  • Social signals: Your activity on social media platforms can also contribute to your SEO efforts. Social signals, like shares and likes, can indirectly impact your SEO by increasing content visibility and driving traffic to your website.
  • Digital PR: getting trusted publications and digital media journalists to mention you is a key element of off-page SEO. While it's not easy, getting mentions through digital PR can vastly improve the trustworthiness of your website.

Technical SEO

The third element of SEO is ensuring your website is structurally clean and easy for search engines to find and navigate.

  • Site speed and mobile-friendliness: With the increasing use of mobile devices, having a mobile-friendly website is essential. Additionally, site speed has become a critical ranking factor. Fast-loading websites provide a better user experience and are favored by search engines.
  • Structured data: Implementing structured data (Schema markup) helps search engines understand the context of your content. This can enhance your search listings with rich snippets, potentially increasing click-through rates.

How SEO is changing

SEO is not a static field; it evolves continually as search engines update their algorithms.

Google's recent helpful content update and E-E-A-T guidelines give an indication of how search engines are prioritizing new content. 

- People-first vs. search first: Google emphasizes that they prefer content that is created for human interest, rather than gaming SEO rankings.

- AI is ok-ay: Google has clarified that AI-generated or AI-assistent content creation is not inherently wrong, but they have guidance on being transparent on how content is created.

- Emphasis on human credibility: website creators should demonstrate their experience (E), expertise (E), authoritativeness (A) and trustworthiness (T) through signals on their website.

These updates are designed to improve user experience and provide the most relevant results. Staying informed about these changes and adjusting your SEO strategies accordingly is essential for maintaining and improving your search engine rankings.

How to measure SEO impact

An essential aspect of SEO is tracking and analyzing your performance. Tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console offer insights into your website's traffic, user behavior, and conversion rates. Regularly monitoring these metrics helps you understand the effectiveness of your SEO strategies and guides necessary adjustments.

Search engine professionals use a number of additional tools to track rankings and estimated visibility for specific terms using tools such as Moz.com, Ahrefs, and Semrush.


Embarking on an SEO journey is about continuous learning, adapting, and optimizing. With dedication and the right strategies, you can significantly enhance your website's visibility and performance in the digital world. R

emember, SEO is not a sprint; it's a marathon. The rewards, though not always immediate, are worth the effort for long-term success.

FAQ about SEO

1. How long does it take to see results from SEO?

The time frame for seeing results from SEO efforts varies, but typically it can take a few months. Factors like the age of your website, the competitiveness of your industry, and the effectiveness of your SEO strategy all play a role.

2. Can I do SEO on my own, or do I need a professional?

Basic SEO practices can be implemented on your own. However, for more advanced strategies and competitive industries, seeking the expertise of an SEO professional might be beneficial.

3. Is SEO only about keywords?

While keywords are a fundamental aspect of SEO, it encompasses much more, including user experience, content quality, technical SEO, and off-site factors.

4. How much does search engine optimization cost?

The cost of search engine optimization depends on how much resources and time you put into the work. The cost will be different for small and larger businesses. Some SEO consultants may work on a hourly rate (approximately €100-200/hour), but most will also offer monthly retainers between €500-5000 per month.


Lari Rounded 200x200

About the author

As a growth advisor I help B2B and SaaS companies accelerate organic growth. As a CMO I was able to 22x organic traffic within a year using generative AI in SEO. Could I help you achieve superhuman growth?