What is SEO and How Do Brands Use It?

Jill Conway


March 23, 2020 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

SEO graphic with all of the elements on it - ranking, web deisng, contnet etc.

In this article…


Many business owners overlook SEO, either due to lack of knowledge or lack of experience in the seemingly-overwhelming area of search optimization. Fortunately, even non-experts can take steps to improve their website’s search results. With some basic SEO knowledge, a brand can improve its SERP rankings. This article will provide you with a basic outline of what SEO is and how to get started implementing it.

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What is SEO?

SEO, or search engine optimization, is improving the quantity and quality of your site’s visibility in organic search results. Thus, your company’s competitiveness in the market can improve. The traffic a website gets during a specified period of time is divided into categories:

  • Organic Research (unpaid)
  • Direct
  • Referral
  • Social
  • Display
  • Email
  • Paid search

SEO can make the content of your site more specific, so the quality of your traffic improves, even as the quantity increases.

The small changes made to a website made to increase SEO do so by making the site more attractive to search engines, allowing that site to rank higher on SERPs (search engine results page). SEO is a constantly changing, never-ending process that requires monitoring and adjusting keywords and other metrics to get a website seen by as many people as possible. Getting SEO principles to work in your favor involves knowing and understanding what people search for and their intent behind the key search terms they’re using. This will help connect the right people to your site for the answers they’re looking for.

The vast majority of online traffic is facilitated by search engines. Paid advertisements receive only a very small portion of the clicks made on the page. SERPs are full of paid advertising and organic search results, more than ever before and continuing to grow. Some examples of how results pages display results (SERP features) include featured snippets, top images, ‘people also ask’ menus, and more. SEO can impact how these features show up on SERPs. The featured snippet, related questions, and proximity of related search terms can all be affected by the effectiveness of your site’s SEO.

Benefits of SEO

Search engine optimization is the single best way to maximize your website’s organic traffic from search engines. In fact, even a small portion of your SEO can save you thousands on marketing and bring you more leads than traditional marketing methods.

Here are some of the many benefits SEO provides:

1. SEO Brings the Traffic You Want

Search engine traffic attracts people who are looking for the keywords you are targeting. This can be referred to as “pull” traffic rather than “push” marketing due to the fact that this traffic is already interested in the keywords you are targeting so they don’t need to be enticed or convinced.

2. Organic Traffic Through SEO Brings More Conversions

SEO traffic generally has the highest conversion rates, due to the fact that these are people who were already searching for what you provide. SEO puts you in the line of sight of potential customers, thereby greatly increasing the chances that they’ll convert, or become customers.

3. Acquisition Costs Can Be Greatly Decreased by Using SEO

SEO is much more cost-effective than traditional marketing and advertising. The costs of putting SEO into use are typically limited to the costs of hiring an SEO expert and producing content. Additional costs include influencers to promote your content or to build authority.

4. SEO Rankings Work for You Around the Clock

SEO doesn’t sleep. While your marketing team must clock out, your SEO rankings, once high enough, continue to pull traffic overnight. Additionally, when your existing content is optimized properly, it will continue to drive traffic over time. This ensures that your older content continues to perform as new content continues to be generated.

5. The Higher Your Ranking, the Higher Level of Trust Your Business Will Receive

Millions of people per day use search engines to find solutions to their problems. When your website possesses a high ranking on search engines, your business will automatically gain a certain level of trust and credibility with searchers. The trust, however, is not to be taken for granted. Many sites practice ‘black-hat SEO,’ a manipulative technique that attempts to trick search engines into promoting them. This practice is unethical and, when caught, sites are penalized and de-indexed, which can and has sent companies into bankruptcy. On the opposite end of the spectrum is ‘white-hat SEO,’ the SEO that everyone should be practicing. This includes best practices that don’t violate terms and guidelines of search engines and focus on helping answer the questions of the people searching.

6. SEO Increases Brand Awareness

SEO increases your website’s visibility and helps potential customers become more aware of your brand.  Brand awareness is important because visitors to your website may not be prepared to make a purchase; however, being aware of your product or service will increase the likelihood that they will think of your brand when they are ready to make a purchase.

7. Optimizing SEO Increases Your Site’s Consumer Touch Points

Increasing your brand awareness through the use of SEO will also increase your customer touchpoints. This refers to the number of times potential customers encounter your brand, increasing the likelihood that they will purchase from your business.

8. SEO Increases Traffic at a Much Higher Rate Than Paid Advertisements

Organic SEO listings receive more touchpoints then paid advertisements. Users tend to skip over paid advertisements due to the level of trust they have in SEO rankings. In other words, SEO will enable your site to gain more new traffic than paid advertisements using the same keywords and phrases.

9. SEO Delivers Quantifiable Results

Inbound marketing strategies provide the most success at driving leads in B2B and B2C businesses. This includes SEO, along with content marketing, social media, and referrals. SEO is measurable and trackable in terms of conversions and their sources. SEO tools enable you to measure which search keywords are ranking the highest and are therefore the most valuable to your business.

10. SEO Encourages In-Store Sales

It may seem counterintuitive, but most shoppers research their purchases online before visiting a store to make a purchase. The higher your website’s SERP rankings, the more likely customers are to find your business and visit it to make a purchase.

11. SEO Allows Your Business to Be More Competitive

In today’s society, the internet has become a way of life. Most potential customers begin their shopping journey online with a keyword search. As competitors are increasingly leveraging organic search to grow their customer base, it’s crucial that your organization is optimizing its website with SEO and keywords to stay competitive.

12. SEO Grabs Market Share

Your SEO rankings can help determine your market share. In other words, ranking high on SERPs increases the probability that consumers will look no further. Being among the top organic search results thus places you ahead of the competition with no added effort on your part.

13. SEO Increases Visitors’ Time on Your Website

When your organic search ranking rises, visitors to your website are likely to stay longer. This is due to the fact that your website more closely fits within the parameters of the search; thus, your offerings are increasingly relevant. The increase in the amount of time that each visitor stays on your website cyclically contributes to an increase in your overall SEO rankings.

14. SEO Gives Users a Better User Experience

A more dynamic user experience includes providing your site’s visitors with the content they’re looking for, supporting text with multimedia elements, creating easily navigable pages, and optimize for mobile. A better user experience drives more visits, higher conversion rates, and better brand recognition.

How To Conduct an SEO Campaign

SEO strategies rely on both internal and external factors to be effective. To optimize your website’s SEO using only ‘white-hat’ strategies, follow these seven steps:

1. Begin With the Basic Keywords and Phrases You Know Your Customers Will Search For.

Start by identifying what you offer and the most likely key phrases to be searched for.. For example, if you run a bakery in Chicago, some obvious search terms will include:

  • Bakeries in Chicago
  • Chicago bakery
  • Baked goods Chicago

Research these and other likely search terms by searching for them yourself and see what the top search results are. Brands know to optimize their websites for SEO, so the first few results will likely have similar, if not identical, title tags that will give you an idea of how people are searching for businesses like yours. Examine other results on the first page, looking for similar terms and phrases that seem to repeat for the top-most results. Put yourself in the perspective of a searcher by asking yourself how you would ask the question to find the best answer and get the closest and most relevant results.

2. Look Deeper. 

Start typing your search terms into the search bar but don’t press ENTER. The search engine will auto-populate the most common search terms that begin with your keyword. As you continue this exercise, your keyword list will become more granular, adding specificity to your search. Another thing to look at is the data collected from your website’s internal search function. Whenever someone uses your site search, it stores the query, which you can use to get insight into the intent behind your site’s visitors’ choice of key terms.

3. Further Expand Your Collection of Search Terms.

By searching in other places, such as forums, threads, and social media platforms, you will begin to understand more about how people are talking about topics related to your business.

4. Become Familiar With the Metrics Behind Your Target Keywords.

The two main metrics on which most SEO experts focus are:

  • Search volume. This refers to the average number of monthly searches that this specific keyword appears.
  • Keyword difficulty. This is an estimate of how difficult it will be for a key term to appear on the first page of search results. Keyword difficulty is measured on a scale from 0 to 100, with lower values being the least difficult to rank for the keyword on the first page of search results.

5. Assign Keywords to Each of Your Pages.

After you identify the keywords for which you want to rank, assign those keywords and phrases to your site’s pages. At this point, you can begin creating a directory spreadsheet to track each keyword as it relates to each page of your website.

6. On‐Page Optimization. 

Once you’ve performed your keyword research, you’ll want to structure your pages in a way that will satisfy the search, allowing them to rank for the keywords you identified. Optimization efforts should ensure your visitors a useful and user-friendly experience while on your website.

7. Align Your Content With Your Search Intent.

In terms of intent, there are three main types of search:

  • Navigational: The searcher knows what specific site they’re looking for.
  • Informational: They’re looking for information about a specific topic.
  • Transactional: They intend to make a specific purchase.

Obviously, searches of the transactional type tend to be more valuable from a business standpoint, assuming that these searches are made by people who are ready to make a purchase when they land on your site.

Additionally, it’s best to keep your site’s URL as short and simple as possible. Consider what would be easier for you, as a person doing a search, what types of URLs would be likely to show up in your ideal search. Furthermore, your content should be organized in a way that the URLs for each page show up in a logical and easy to understand manner and ideally, target the keyword you’re trying to rank the page for. For example, domain.com/chicago-bakery is much more search-friendly than domain.com/569%45602_86jp58.asp. This is something you’ll want to decide from the outset, as it can be damaging to your brand and your SEO rankings to change your URL later on.

More Tips To Get Your Page Ranked Higher On the Search Results 

You can use these additional tips to improve your page rank:

  • Optimize your page for search bots as well as humans. You can do this by making sure your page loads quickly (ideally less than three seconds), making your site mobile-friendly, allowing a sitemap to be created (this allows search engines to quickly understand how each of the pages within your site are connected) and creating a strategy to include internal links within the pages of your website to better allow search engines to determine which are the most important pages on the site.
  • Build backlinks from other websites. This starts with reaching out to people who share your niche to introduce them to your content, such as blog posts, infographics, and other information on your site that they may find useful. People you should start reaching out to include those who have used your target keyword in their content as well as people who have linked to articles about topics similar to your keyword or phrase. If they find your content useful, they may be willing to link to it in their future articles or other content.
  • Create meta titles and descriptions that will entice people to click on your site. The meta title will typically include the keyword that you want your page to rank for and be, at maximum, 60 characters in length to avoid truncation in the search results. The meta title should sum up in a few words what the page is about. The meta description will describe, ideally in less than 155 characters, a little more about the page, supporting the keyword you’re trying to rank for. The meta title and meta description should work together to give the searcher an idea of what they will gain from clicking on your page.
  • Post unique, relevant content regularly. Avoid automatically-generated, copied, cloaked or otherwise deceptive or unoriginal content. Not only will these practices get your site de-indexed and your company fined but it will also eliminate any trust in your brand by consumers.
  • Create the pages of your site with user experience in mind, rather than search engine discovery. Yes, you want your site to be found. But it’s not a good idea to lure traffic in by deception or trickery, such as deceptive links or traffic funnels. Ask yourself how your site’s SEO helps your user find what they’re looking for and how you want your site to stand out in terms of value offered and engaging content.

Author Image - Jill Conway
Jill Conway

CopyPress writer

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