What Is SEO? Search Engine Optimization Best Practices (2024)

What are the main goals of SEO?

While every SEO campaign can have unique goals, most online publishers are united in wanting to achieve some or all of the five following results from their investment in optimization:

1. More visibility in the SERPs

The majority of Google users stay within the first page of Google’s results to find an answer to their query and 75% will click on either the first or second result on the page. Because of this behavior, one major goal of SEO is to rank more highly in the results for more searches. The more visible your content is, the better its chances of being found and chosen by the public.

At this stage in your learning it’s important for you to know that website owners shouldn’t pursue the myth of #1 search engine rankings, because entities like Google will show different results to different users based on the location of their devices and even minor differences in the language of their queries. A better goal than being #1 is to be highly visible to your focus audience for your most important searches across multiple SERP styles and features.

2. More traffic to your website and other assets

When searchers reach your site via clicking on the organic SERPs, this is known as “traffic”. Whether the click-thru-rate (CTR) to your website pages from the SERPs impacts organic rankings in Google is a matter of ongoing controversy and debate in the SEO industry. Bing confirms that they use both CTR and bounce rate (how quickly people leave your web page after landing on it) as ranking factors. But though the precise details of search engine algorithms remain secret, it stands to reason that a goal of SEO work is to bring more traffic from the SERPs to your online assets.

3. Better quality traffic to your website and other assets

While winning a slew of traffic from the SERPs may, at first, sound like a dream come true to any site owner, it will typically only impact basic business goals if this traffic converts into sales or other key actions. For example, an independently-owned doughnut shop in San Francisco might achieve first page rankings in Google for sourdough doughnuts. It might go viral on social media for a funny or unusual marketing campaign and make it into mainstream news. It might receive national or even international traffic from these rankings and efforts, but when its product is only actually available to be purchased by customers in its city, most of this traffic will not convert to sales and may be only nominally supportive of the viability of the company.

Because of this, a better goal than hoping for lots of traffic to your digital assets is to use SEO to strategize on how to win the most qualified traffic for what you offer, because this will typically have the highest conversion rate. High quality organic traffic depends on search engines determining that your content is highly relevant for the queries you discover are most likely to result in conversions, whether your conversions are defined as sales, filling out forms, phone calls, leads, or even just customers spending more time on your website. You can access further learning on measuring traffic quality in this blog post tutorial by Adriana Stern.

4. Greater intelligibility to the public

One of the best things you can do in learning about SEO is to understand it as a form of customer service. Google rewards content that is useful to the public. In fact, their 2022 Helpful Content algorithm update largely focused on how they reward sites that make a habit of publishing content that is of true use to searchers. For decades, Google has urged site owners to create content for people rather than for search engines.

SEO can help your site be more intelligible, discoverable, and usable to its potential visitors. Optimization influences both what your content looks like when shown within the SERPs and what your content looks and behaves like when searchers click through to your digital assets. Providing good service and a great user experience to the public is one of the most practical reasons to invest in SEO.

5. Greater intelligibility to search engines

In order for search engines to feature and reward your content so that you can earn the visibility, traffic, and conversions you need, your website and other assets need to be intelligible to the crawlers/spiders/bots that entities like Google and Bing use to crawl and index digital content. This is achieved by multiple SEO efforts that can be broken down into:

  • On-page SEO, which chiefly consists of how you optimize specific elements of a website page so that its contents are relevance are clear

  • Technical SEO, which chiefly consists of managing the technical backend of your website so that it can be effectively crawled, indexed, and understood by search engines.

  • Off-page SEO, which chiefly consists of how you earn links, citations, notice, and press from third parties, thereby building up the authority of your digital assets

Taken altogether, these three areas of SEO work to ensure that search engines can match your content to their perceived intent of searchers’ queries. The better search engines can understand your content, the better your chances of achieving high, broad, and highly-converting rankings. We’ll look into each of these three concepts more deeply next.

What Is SEO? Search Engine Optimization Best Practices (2024)
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