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If you are a business owner or have your own website you will more than likely have heard of the term SEO. But what exactly is SEO? What does it mean? Where did it come from? Our beginner SEO series explains all, as well as the different aspects of SEO and how to carry them out. First of all…

What is SEO?

SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimisation. It is the practice of improving your website’s visibility and rankings within the Search Engine Result Pages, or SERP’s. The desired effect of higher rankings and visibility is an increase in website traffic, more specifically “organic traffic”.

How did SEO begin?

Though SEO is still fairly young, the beginnings of SEO are fairly difficult to determine and shrouded in mystery. However, there is a post on Search Engine Journal which suggests the term SEO was first being used around 1997, over 20 years ago (at the time I write this).

Wikipedia also says the following:

“According to industry analyst Danny Sullivan, the earliest known use of the phrase “search engine optimisation” was a spam message posted on Usenet on July 26, 1997.”

However, there is also evidence that the term SEO was first mentioned by John Audette of Multimedia Marketing Group in Feb ’97 when talking about the services his agency provided, you can see this page here on the WaybackMachine website.

How has SEO changed?

Back in the early days of the SEO industry, prior to the emergence of the search engine giant Google, the world of SEO was rather like the Wild West: it was a lawless place with no real guidelines. Webmasters would try a multitude of different techniques (most of which are now termed “black hat”) in order to push their websites up the search results.

One technique was stuffing keywords within the page using the same colour font as a background colour, effectively hiding these keywords from human visitors. Another technique was to set the font size of a block of text to a negative figure, resulting in the text effectively vanishing from the screen…and the most common was to gain huge amounts of unrelated inbound links to your website from 100’s of websites with very little relevance and quality.

In the early days, most basic search engines would count the number of inbound links pointing towards your website, in its simplest form, if you had more links than your competitors you would rank higher.

These days things are much more complicated. With the rise of AI and machine learning, or the dominance of mobile devices making up the majority of searches done online, there are many more elements to consider.

With this said, the fundamental guiding principles of SEO have and will always remain the same: content “Quality” and “Relevance”.

Two categories of SEO

Broadly speaking, SEO can be broken down into two main categories, “on-site SEO” and “off-site SEO”. Each category requires specific work to be undertaken and is also treated differently by Google.

On-site SEO

All the elements that make up your website, from the code, the images & written content, through to the server it is hosted on, are all examples of areas Google and the other search engines look at with regards to SEO.

Off-site SEO

This is the more time intensive and the “on-going” aspect of SEO. Off-Site refers to all the external factors influencing your website’s SEO. The overall profile of your business on the internet, the mentions you have on social media websites, the discussions in forums, the different websites which link to or direct their own visitors to your website.

What can SEO do for my business?

Many people may be thinking “What can SEO do for my business?” There are two main benefits that search engine optimisation will bring to your business:

  1. Increased traffic from “organic” channels
  2. Improved visibility & brand awareness

Increasing the traffic from organic channels largely depends on your positions within the SERP’s (search engine results pages). The higher you rank for your targeted keywords, the more traffic you will generate, depending on how effective your keyword research has been and the competition levels in your sector.

Often ranking high in the SERP’s alone isn’t sufficient to produce traffic, the Click Through Rate (CTR%) of your listing is also highly important. If you rank highly but have a low click through rate, you won’t receive traffic. This is where your listing needs to be relevant to the searcher’s query. The meta data of your pages is highly important on improving CTR%.

In the “real world” awareness of your brand & trust in your company are improved when more people see your business, being more visible in the real world helps improve sales and enquiries. “Online” is no different: the more people that see your website ranking within the search results, the higher your visibility and awareness of your brand and trust in your brand online is improved.

Hopefully you’ve found this post helpful. To delve deeper into the topic of SEO, check out the other articles in our Beginner SEO series.