There are so many strands to, and techniques involved in, search engine optimization that it can be difficult to arrive at a precise definition of what it is. One person might tell you that it involves finding keywords and putting them into your webpages. Another may talk about social media and organic marketing.
So who’s right?
We can try to define optimization collectively instead – by turning away from concrete examples of things that are done in its name, and concentrating on the spirit behind all of it. That spirit is the desire to get a web page ranked high in the SERPs (search engine results pages) so that client sites are seen frequently by people who exist within their target audience.
What search engine optimization is, then, and what it does to achieve its aims, are two separate things. The blanket definition of the term is entirely concerned with the things it is trying to do, rather than the ways in which it sets about doing them.
Search engine optimisation can in this way be defined as the process by which a web page is repeatedly returned in the high pages of the SERPs. This end result is achieved by the informed application of a range of techniques and practices, which cover a huge amount of technical ground and often require the input of people with more than one skill set.
The creation of optimized content, for instance, requires the services of a writer or team of writers, capable of creating engaging content that contains the search terms being targeted. It also requires the existence of a web development team, which either uploads the content directly or creates the CMS in which the content is pasted into the site.
This is only one example. With every technique or process used to optimize a web page, the involvement or engagement of different groups of people may be required.
Take the visual aspect, for example. As search engines become more and more “intelligent”, they’re starting to wake up visually. Google is known to look at the appearance of a page and parse its information into blocks. So a search engine optimization campaign can now optimize a single page for different but complementary keywords without being penalized for being vague.
In the past, Google would look at the content of a page as a whole – so if it saw that you talked both about a specific model of car, and about a range of car valeting products, it might rank your page less well than one that only talked about the vehicle or the chamois leather. Now, though, the engine can assume that the one topic, if it’s sensibly laid out on a magazine style page, might relate to the other – and so the ranking rises.
Ultimately, it’s an ability to understand just how complex the enterprise of search engine optimization is, that allows a web user to push his or her site up to those all-important top spots.