SEO is the art and science of improving traffic to a website from Google, Yahoo & Bing.

That’s the short answer I give when people ask what SEO is. Sometimes I’ll say, “Search Engine Optimization” but that doesn’t usually help someone who doesn’t work online.

Here’s a picture I took of the search result set for “SEO dashboard”. I use this to establish visually that SEO is about the non-paid set of search results vs the paid PPC ads:

What is SEO?

Of course, really the distinctions between the red and blue should be paid and non-paid, but I put “SEO” in the blue area to show that this is what SEO is concerned about. Many SEOs also do PPC (pay-per-click) management, but that’s generally not considered core SEO.

The longer answer of “What is SEO?” is that it’s a subset of marketing, (specifically SEM, or ‘Search Engine Marketing’) focused online, around earning more traffic, conversions, and revenue.

What do SEOs Do?

SEO professionals:

  • Write amazing content that will attract links, eyeballs, and authority
  • Do keyword research to find terms that will drive traffic
  • Create page titles and meta descriptions that improve click through rates
  • Do technical audits to improve on-page SEO and crawler-friendly
  • Improve navigation and site structure
  • Optimize and add images to content
  • Create sitemaps for users and .xml sitemaps for crawlers
  • Create and optimize local profiles in Google Local and other locations
  • Setup and monitor Google Analytics
  • Create and monitor A/B tests to improve conversions
  • Setup and monitor Google Webmaster Tools

Do SEOs do all those things?

Most SEOs I know are good at a few specific tactics across the broad spectrum of SEO. A few great SEOs can do it all, but that person is very rare, and you can’t usually hire them (they build their own sites and rake in the cash).

Learning more about SEO

For the new person just learning about SEO, the biggest piece of advice I would give is this:

Build a site around something you care about. Not even as a business, but just something you are passionate about. Maybe it’s woodworking, or flyfishing, or music. It doesn’t matter. Just build a site, install Google Analytics, and start writing.

The dirty secret in SEO is that it’s not about tips or tricks anymore, it’s about working your butt off effectively. The best SEOs I know work smarter and harder than anyone else. They don’t need any tools to be successful, but they do use tools to make them more productive.

Don’t get caught up reading. Write. Test. Do.

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