Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or webpage on a search engine results page (SERP) so as to make a company’s website more discoverable (i.e., on the first page/s), thereby driving traffic and sales. Tedious, involving technical and business decisions, and not guaranteeing results—it nonetheless provides lasting benefits.
SEO often involves the concerted effort of multiple departments within an organization, including the design, marketing, and content production teams. While some SEO work entails business analysis (e.g., comparing one’s content with competitors’), a sizeable part depends on the ranking algorithms of various search engines, which may change with time. Nevertheless, a rule of thumb is that websites and webpages with higher-quality content, more external referral links, and more user engagement will rank higher on an SERP.
The SEO process includes six general phases:
- Research, including business research, competitor analysis, current state assessment, and keyword searching
- Planning and strategy, including decisions on how to handle content, build links to the website, manage social media presence and technical implementation strategies
- Implementation, where optimization decisions on a site’s webpages and the website as a whole are executed
- Monitoring, where the activity of web spiders, traffic, search engine rankings, and other metrics are observed for producing reports on which assessment will be performed
- Assessment, involving checking the summarized effects of the strategy (and its implementation) against the SEO process’s stated targets
- Maintenance, where both minor or major problems with the website’s operation are handled as they arise (e.g., new content that needs optimization according to the strategy)
The SEO process targets mostly organic links and search engine result placement; still, it is often complemented by more aggressive measures (e.g., paid search ads) and is often part of traditional marketing campaigns.