What is SEO (Search Engine Optimization)? A Starter Guide

What is SEO?

People often search for terms like “What is SEO” or “Understanding SEO” or “Basics of SEO.” Well… look no further! We’ll cover all your questions on the basics of SEO.

In short, effective SEO practices should increase the quality and quantity of the organic (a.k.a. free) traffic to your web pages. Provided that you have the right SEO groundwork in place, your web pages will bring in consistent traffic due to their high placements on SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).

DEFINITIONSEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a form of online marketing. It involves constructing your web pages so they are easily discoverable, and ranked by a search engine. 

what is seo Above is the first SERP for the query ‘what is seo’.


Understanding SEO is not that difficult. In fact, it isn’t an exact science. But on the positive side, there are best practices that will boost your organic traffic.

So, let’s get you up to speed on the basics.     

Search Engine Basics

Undoubtedly, the internet is the largest database in existence. Most web content doesn’t have to go through a strict review process for it to be uploaded after all (in theory). Anything goes…if you don’t care about your content being seen.  


Basically, search engines sort through all that content to get you the web pages that best satisfy your query. If it can’t find useful content for enough queries, then users will migrate to a competitor’s service. In order to keep users coming, they cater to the majority, working to deliver reliable and useful content that many can easily consume.

To put it differently, search engines are people pleasers.


So, how do you satisfy search engines like Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, CC Search, and, and…


The simple answer: You don’t.

SEO for Google Search Engine   

What’s the common phrase used interchangeably with “Look it up!”? 


Google it!

DID YOU KNOW?Google holds ~92% of search engine market share. Its ‘closest’ competitor, Bing, comes in at ~3%. 

Most searches are performed with Google. Therefore, to save your time and resources, you should optimize your content for Google’s algorithm. If you still feel like you’ll be missing out on traffic, then just know that SEO marketing tends to work (to varying degrees) for all search engines.


But what actions can you take to move your pages up Google’s SERPs? 


SEO is analogous to school.

Some teachers refuse to reveal their grading criteria. Still, you have a good idea of what you probably need to do to get an A+: quote relevant and reliable sources, proofread your work, etc. 


SEO for Google works similarly. You should have a clear sense of what Google’s algorithm favors, but the particulars of your approach may need tweaking.  


Here’s what Google has to say on the matter:


“Search algorithms look at many factors, including the words of your query, relevance, and usability of pages, the expertise of sources, and your location and settings. The weight applied to each factor varies depending on the nature of your query


It’s important to realize, that’s just a shortlist of Google’s ~200 ranking factors. 


In truth, we’ll never know most of these ranking factors. There are, nevertheless, SEO best practices that continue to bring organic traffic to site owners.

SEO Best Practices

REMEMBERGoogle finds and ranks web pages, not websites. You should be maximizing SEO for all of your pages. 

This is not a comprehensive list!

However, the following information will give you immediately actionable SEO marketing strategies to get you started. 

Keywords and Search Intent

For users, keywords are the words used to make their queries. 


For site owners, keywords are a factor in SEO. they are:

  1. What your pages rank for
  2. A powerful tool to determine search intent
DEFINITIONSearch intent is the reason why any combination of keywords is used. 

To illustrate how keywords and search intent work, let’s look at an example.


Say it’s getting close to your dinner time, so you google ‘pasta recipes.’


What’s your search intent in this case? You obviously want to make pasta for dinner. 


Scrolling through the SERPs, you see recipes from home cooks to professional chefs. SEO search result for pasta recipes

At this point, you might decide to add more keywords to narrow your results to ‘carbonara pasta recipes.’

SEO search result for carbonara pasta recipes

Google a potential keyword before doing anything else! By all means, browse through the top results and see what they share vis a vis content type and format.  


To begin with, ask yourself these questions as you research potential keywords:

  • What type of content ranks highly? Do you see a bunch of blog posts, product pages, videos?
  • Is there a content form that ranks highly? If the top results are how-to videos, then you’d be best off finding different keywords for your opinion piece.
  • Any other similarities? Perhaps a certain demographic is being targeted across all the top pages.

In time, keyword research will become second nature to you.

Redefining ‘Quality’ Writing (i.e. forget Shakespeare) for SEO

Forget Shakespeare, the old bard of Avon!


Unsurprisingly, Google’s algorithm is not a literary critic. People aren’t scouring the web for poetic answers to their queries, of course. Otherwise, you’d be deciphering poems to figure out what swimsuit you should buy. You have to produce straightforward, accessible, accurate content in order to rank your pages. 


Think search intent. Always. 


Here’s a checklist you can follow to optimize your writing for Google:

  • Write so an eighth grader would understand 
  • Keep your sentences and paragraphs short and snappy
  • Stagger written content with infographics, quotes, call-outs, images, etc. 
  • Link to authorities and sources to show transparency and accuracy

To see if you’re keeping your writing simple and concise, copy and paste it into the Hemingway Editor.


Better yet, download an SEO tool that will analyze your pages and give you actionable tips to improve your SEO. We’ve got a guide on the Yoast SEO plugin.


Depending on your content, freshness may also factor in the quality of your pages. For content that remains evergreen, you don’t have to worry about making updates. At least currently, there aren’t any innovations on how to change a tire. But for lists on the best headphones, new offerings come out every month. You would need to update your content to satisfy the public’s ever-growing options. 

SEO  Marketing vs. SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

Even though they’re related, don’t mistake SEO for SEM. SEM and SEO are definitely not the same.

SEO marketing is free, for the most part. Many site owners pay a monthly fee for a comprehensive SEO toolset that allows you to perform in-depth keyword research and the like. We, however, have compiled a suite of free SEO tools for you. Check it out in our article ‘Create a Suite of Free SEO Tools: Our Top Recommendations.’ You’ll need them to help you perform your next free SEO audit, too. 


SEM, on the other hand, is paid and refers to pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. 


When you search something up, you’ll often find ads at the top and bottom of SERPs. 

PPC ad for search query ‘t shirts.’ -SEO PPC ad for the search query ‘t-shirts.’


In other words, SEM is like a cheat code you have to pay for. Site owners can simply jump the queue, using cash to appear at the top of the search. In truth, all SEO marketing may not be able to deliver the same results as search engine marketing. 


↪ Selecting the Best SEO Services to Boost your Search Rankings

↪ SEO Certifications: What you Need to Know Before Enrolling

↪ How To Select The Best SEO Services To Boost Your Search Rankings

The Missing (Back)Links to your SEO

So given these points, you go off and create (Google) quality content. 


Moreover, you optimize your pages so they’re easily found by Google. 


But you still aren’t moving up the search rankings. 


Evidently, quality content isn’t enough. 


Quality content ≠ High Search Rank

Quality content + Quality backlinks = High Search Rank 


In essence, backlinks work as upvotes in Google’s algorithm. They show Google that people are finding your page useful and relevant to their query. As Google is a people pleaser, it will usually rank pages with the most backlinks highest because they’ve likely delivered quality content. 


Obviously, backlinks are crucial to gaining organic traffic. They’re important yet the most difficult part of SEO. You want them. 


Your friends, siblings, and family members want them. Turns out, they are difficult and time-consuming to build. 


For those who are willing to take the time and effort to DIY, check out our articles ‘What are Backlinks? And How to Get Them…’ and ‘Backlink Checkers: Four Free Options + How To Use Them.’  


But many of you probably have your hand’s full juggling content creation, your social life, your job, and many other responsibilities. You don’t have the time to handle the hard part of SEO, and that’s completely understandable. 

GuestPosts.ai is here to help. 

We build and maintain quality backlinks to get your content the sustained traffic it deserves. 


Here’s what many link building services won’t tell you: Backlinks are not created equal.

Bad BacklinksQuality Backlinks
Pages with a list of links and no contentPages with links and rich content
From irrelevant and unreliable sourcesFrom relevant and reliable domain authorities 
Potential ranking penalties for violating Google’s Webmaster GuidelinesNo risk of penalties

Investing in our link building service will bring your pages quality backlinks for reliable and effective growth. We provide regular maintenance, so our backlinks consistently deliver organic traffic long-term.  


We’d love to hear from you.