Jargon Buster: What is SEO?

Nowadays, everyone with a website knows about SEO. Don’t they? 

The text 'SEO' is surrounded by a cloud of words and phrases relating to SEO, including links, keywords, metadata, pay per click, and ranking.

In practice, I often find most people know it’s something they ‘ought to have’ but have very different ideas about what it actually is.

The term SEO is generally used to mean anything which makes a website easier to find through a search engine.

It’s short for Search Engine Optimisation, which means improving your website to help search engines understand what it’s about, and to encourage them to link to it. In its purest sense, SEO means only the changes that you make to your own website. Nowadays, to avoid confusion, this is referred to as ‘on-site’ or ‘organic’ SEO.

Organic SEO could mean anything from having good content, writing well and creating good metadata to making sure your website is mobile-friendly and that your pages load fast.

If you do this, it will encourage search engines to think your website is a worthwhile place to send people. However, it can take a long time for search engines to even notice your site, let alone start sending traffic there. So how can you give it a nudge?

This is where the second element of SEO, known as Search Engine Marketing (or SEM), comes in. SEM is ‘off-site’ activity, i.e. anything you do elsewhere on the web to encourage search engines to ‘like’ your website.

SEM covers activity like pay-per-click (PPC) adverts, social media activity, and link building.

Technically, SEM is nothing to do with ‘optimising’ your own website – it’s online marketing and advertising. However, it can have a big impact on getting your website up the search rankings so when people talk about ‘SEO’, they generally mean both organic SEO and SEM.

If you want to know more about the nitty-gritty of SEO, see my Tips for Better Search Rankings.

Are there any other bits of jargon you’d like me to explain? If so, leave a comment to let me know!

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