During our tenure in the digital marketing sphere, we’ve published a number of posts that delve into the nitty gritty of search engine optimization. But we know that everyone starts out somewhere – and that everyone can use a refresher every now and then.

Whether you’re a new agency owner or you just want to save time on sales calls, we recommend you bookmark this page and share these insights with leads who might not yet understand why SEO matters. Reviewing the basics can help you develop clearer, more compelling answers to your prospect’s top questions, like:

  • What is SEO marketing?
  • How does SEO work?
  • Why is SEO important?

You can think of this post as your SEO compass, guiding you and your clients down the right marketing path. And before you set off on any journey, you need to prepare for the trip. Let’s get going.

what is seo

What Is SEO, Anyway?

Short for “search engine optimization,” SEO refers to the practice of making a website more visible in relevant search engine results pages. If a website has been optimized for organic search, it’s more likely to catch the attention of Google (and other search engines) and be seen as a valuable source of information for web users.

How Does SEO Work?

SEO involves some fairly complex processes (which is one reason why a lot of agency owners work with a white label SEO company like Semify!). However, the basic breakdown looks something like this:

  1. Search engine bots crawl every website and index every individual web page they can
  2. Search engine algorithms (i.e., secret calculations used by major search engines like Google) sort through the indexed pages
  3. The indexed pages are ranked using hundreds of different signals to determine perceived merit and relevance
  4. This ranking order is what appears when you type a query into the Google search bar

The better a site is at showing Google what it’s about and how it can solve specific problems for web users, the more likely it is to receive a good ranking in search results. When a site is easier to find based on a pertinent search query, that site will theoretically receive a higher portion of traffic and overall attention.

Doesn’t SEO Happen Naturally?

It can to a certain extent! Google wants to provide users with high-quality, relevant information. A non-optimized website might still contain useful information that can allow that site to show up in organic search results (particularly for less competitive search terms).

However, in most cases, you’ll need to make a deliberate effort to appear consistently in search engine results pages (SERPs). With millions and millions of websites now in existence, businesses – especially small businesses – have to work even harder to get noticed. You can’t rely on luck if you want to drive traffic to your site.

Who Typically Does SEO?

It takes experience (not to mention a substantial time investment!) to properly optimize a site for search engines. As a marketer or agency owner, you might do some website optimization for your clients on occasion. Digital marketing specialists, account managers, content writers, and web developers may all have a hand in optimizing a site, as well. Pros can avoid some ineffective or even harmful mistakes that clients can stumble into with a DIY approach.

Whether you employ these professionals yourself or rely on a white label SEO partner like Semify to do that work for you, it’s best to entrust the experts with optimization work to adhere to industry best practices.

Are There Different Types of SEO?

The answer to the “what is SEO in marketing?” question is multi-faceted. There are different components of SEO that make up virtually any strategy. While your clients might not know them by these names, they can probably recognize the examples we’ve laid out.

What Is On Page SEO?

On page SEO, like its name implies, involves optimization tactics that take place right on the client’s website. This is also sometimes referred to as on site SEO.

On page SEO is meant to provide context for search engines while simultaneously providing value for human web visitors. The goal here should be to communicate what the page or site is about, connect the page or site to relevant search queries, and offer a clear benefit to users.

Some common examples of on page or on site SEO include:

  • Keywords
  • Internal and external links
  • High-quality written and visual content
  • Technical optimizations (see below)

What Is Technical SEO?

Technical SEO is sometimes treated as its own category, but it may also fall under the umbrella of on page SEO. While human visitors may not always notice technical optimizations, technical SEO elements can help create a positive user experience and communicate relevance and importance to search engines.

Some common examples of technical SEO are:

  • Mobile friendliness
  • Site/page speed
  • URL structure
  • Meta tags and descriptions
  • Titles, headings, and alt tags
  • Streamlined site navigation

What Is Off Page SEO?

Off page or off site SEO refers to optimizations that occur outside of the client’s website. Business owners may not realize that it’s more than just their website that determines their ranking in SERPs. In fact, some off page SEO may be weighed more heavily in Google’s ranking algorithm than on page optimizations.

When you’re doing off page SEO, you’re basically trying to get other sites or platforms to give your site a big thumbs up. You want to improve your own reputation and perceived authority.

Typically, that’s accomplished via:

  • Backlinks to your site
  • Online reviews
  • Business listings (see local SEO)

It can also include things like social media marketing, influencer marketing, and public relations.

What Is Local SEO and How Is It Different From Other Kinds of SEO?

Local SEO aims to improve search visibility within a certain geographical area. Instead of targeting the whole internet, this type of SEO focuses on appearing in local search results.

At first, a smaller focus might sound like a bad thing to a lot of business owners. Understandably, they want to attract as many clients as possible. But local SEO is one of the most effective strategies for small businesses to target consumers in their area who are ready to buy, rather than wasting time and money trying to compete with global corporations.

Examples of local SEO may include:

  • Location-specific keywords
  • Voice search optimization
  • Google Business Profile optimization
  • Other business directory listings
  • Online review management
  • Hyper-local backlinks
  • Mobile friendly design

Local SEO can be performed both on site and off. For example, online reviews and Google Business Profile optimization can improve your client’s off page local SEO ranking. Then, because nearby searches are more likely to be performed on mobile devices, you might focus on a mobile-friendly user experience.

Local SEO isn’t drastically different from regular SEO. It’s really just the scale – and the particular techniques used – that will make the difference.

Is There a Right (or Wrong) Way to Do SEO?

In a word, yes.

Once a client has learned why SEO matters, they might be eager to start seeing results right away. The desire for overnight success can put them on the wrong SEO path – especially if they don’t have a knowledgeable agency partner to guide them and look out for their best interests.

SEO isn’t meant to be a quick fix. But that doesn’t always stop people from trying to make it one. Black hat SEO describes the underhanded and outdated tactics that some seedy SEO “experts” use in an attempt to game the system. These tactics flaunt in the face of Google’s guidelines and usually do more harm than good.

For example, websites used to see positive effects from including keywords ad nauseam on a single page. Search engines used to be a lot less sophisticated – so if they detected that a keyword was used 100 times on a page, the search engine thought that page must be worth ranking! Websites that engaged in keyword stuffing saw their efforts pay off in the early days.

But now, Google’s algorithm can detect and penalize sites that try to rank based on keyword stuffing or other manipulative tactics. You take a huge risk when you engage in black hat SEO, but you probably won’t see the results you’re looking for. If you’re not up-to-date on the best SEO practices, you could unknowingly violate Google’s guidelines. But since Google doesn’t really distinguish between ignorance and maliciousness, your site could be dinged just the same.

Want to feel confident that you’re doing SEO the right way? Work with the experts. Even if you’re a seasoned marketer, you might not have time to keep up with all the most recent updates in organic search. Working with a reputable white label fulfillment partner like Semify can help your clients sidestep a lot of the issues that come from black hat tactics.

Why Does SEO Matter? Do My Clients Need It?

So with all of that in mind… Why is SEO important for your clients? Do they really need to invest in SEO if they’re already doing paid search?

We’re big proponents of multi-pronged marketing strategies. PPC and display ads certainly have their place; they can drive traffic quickly and improve brand visibility within a short time. However, it’s also costly and won’t stand the test of time. Online advertising isn’t a substitute for SEO. It actually works best as a supplement to it.

We're not just saying this because it's our specialty; we truly believe in the power of SEO and have seen it firsthand time and time again. SEO is a cost-effective, long-term solution that drives consistent traffic months (or even years!) after those initial optimizations are made. Consumers trust organic search results over paid ads, which means SEO can boost your client’s reputation, authority, and goodwill. It can reach customers at any stage in the sales funnel.

An ad, on the other hand, is effective only for a target audience that’s poised to purchase. If you’re focused on just running ads for your clients, they’re going to be outpaced by the competition in organic search results. Since over half of all web traffic comes from organic search – and the first position result has a 32% click-through rate – your clients will miss out if they aren’t doing SEO.

Here are the main takeaways for why SEO matters:

  • It’s affordable and builds value over time
  • It drives more consistent traffic than other types of marketing
  • It helps build customer loyalty and a better user experience
  • It improves your reputation online
  • BONUS: It offers recurring revenue for your agency while putting your clients’ best interests first

Most business owners won’t need to know all of the minute details of SEO to succeed. They’re entrusting you to use your expertise to position their site as effectively as possible. Even so, they still might ask, “what is SEO and why does it matter for my bottom line?” An education in SEO essentials can help them understand why SEO is important for their business while building trust in your ongoing partnership.