What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine Optimization, referred to as SEO for short, is 1) a process that aims to ensure that search engines understand the content of your website and 2) a process aiming to improve your website’s rankings within the most popular search engines.

1) Understanding Your Website

Most of the time people are referring to the latter definition of improving a website’s rankings however making it easier for search engines to understand your website is part of the process. It can include:

  • adding a site map to ensure all the pages of your site can be found
  • adding alt text to images that appear on the site to explain what it the image is of
  • adding meta data to the site such as a site title and meta description that explain what the site is about
  • adding a version of the page for browsers that don’t have certain capabilities like browsers without javascript (some search engine bots don’t understand javascript either)
  • adding a version of your site that doesn’t use flash for the same reasons as the point above

2) Improving Your Rankings

Search Engine Optimization To Improve Your Rankings

There are two separate parts to Search Engine Optimization aimed at improving your rankings. These are on-site Search Engine Optimization which is SEO that takes place by making changes to your website and off-site Search Engine Optimization which is to do with activities that take place on other websites.

Despite the name Search Engine Optimization suggesting that it is a process that takes place on the website being optimised, most of the SEO performed within competitive industries takes place off site.

On-Site Search Engine Optimization To Improve Your Rankings

This is where you make sure that your website contains the search terms that potential visitors might use. For instance it is very common to see a website for a dentist in London that doesn’t actually have the words “dentist London” anywhere on their site. “London” may appear within their address and “dentist” may appear throughout the site but never together. To improve your rankings the words should appear together the way you would expect someone to type them in to a search engine. The more times they appear together on a page the more relevant that page will be deemed to be by the search engine. Especially if the words appear in headings, bold, italics, underline and near the start of the page.

Off-Site Search Engine Optimization To Improve Your Rankings

This is where you go about getting other sites to link to yours. The more authority the other sites have in the eyes of each search engine the better. Also the context that they use to link to your site matters to e.g does the link say “Dentist London” or “Jones Dental Practice”. The former will help your rankings more.


The abbreviation SEO can also stand for Search Engine Optimizer which refers to the person that undergoes that actual task of Search Engine Optimization.

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