What is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the art and science of achieving higher search engine rankings for your web pages.

That's it in a nutshell but it doesn't really describe what a professional SEO can do.

Any monkey can achieve a top search engine ranking for "random long unused search term" or "My Obscure Company Name" but will such rankings provide any business benefit and should they be considered SEO?

Well, ranking for your company name is usually pretty easy but it does involve a real business benefit.  At least people searching specifically for you can find you.  That, however, is only scratching the surface of what search engine optimisation can do for your business.

Search engine optimisation is about helping visitors to find your site / content / products / services in response to their search queries. The first step in that process is finding out what people are searching for. In the SEO world this is known as keyword research and is one of the first steps in an SEO project.

To have a useful understanding of what search engine optimisation is and how it benefits us, it is important to expand our definition somewhat. Not only are we looking to achieve higher search engine rankings but we are looking to achieve higher search engine rankings for phrases that will provide actual business benefit. We can measure this benefit in terms of revenue generation, or visitors or goal conversions of various kinds. How we define these benefits may alter the key phrases we choose to target or how we target them.

So, our search engine optimisation process should involve choosing the right targeted phrases and then achieving higher rankings for those terms.

That's a good start in understanding search engine optimisation but we should never understand SEO in isolation from the general marketing of the website. Search engine optimisation needs to be understood as part of a wider picture encompassing all of your goals for your site.

If you could create a page designed purely for the search engines that got to the top of the rankings in Google for your main keyword, would you? What if it looked like junk when visitors arrived? Would it be likely to sell more widgets? Would it be good for your brand? Would visitors have a positive view of your company? Would it be good SEO?

Your search engine optimisation should never be divorced from considerations of visitor experience. If your aim is to sell more green widgets, there will be many factors that feed into that goal. Your search engine optimisation should be part of a wider marketing campaign and a wider understanding of how your site fits in and how your site can stimulate genuine business advantage.