Definition: Search engine optimization or SEO means optimizing your website to improve its rankings in search results so you can earn more traffic and revenue from the web.
You’ve heard about SEO enough times to ask, “What does SEO mean?”
SEO stands for search engine optimization (SEO).
In business and marketing, SEO is the practice of improving your online visibility in organic search results to increase the quantity and quality of your website traffic. Overall, this digital marketing strategy aims to generate revenue and growth for your company through increased online visibility.
Ready to learn more about SEO’s definition and get answers to some of the most common SEO questions, like “What does SEO do?” or “What does SEO mean in business?”
This mini-guide covers the top seven things every marketer and business owner should know about SEO, plus includes a bonus FAQ that answers questions about SEO’s cost and more.
Just keep reading to get started!
P.S. For a quick way to see your site’s SEO status, enter your URL here for an instant SEO audit!
7 Must-Know Facts About SEO’s Meaning
1. SEO stands for search engine optimization
When someone mentions SEO, they’re referring to search engine optimization.
If you adopt SEO marketing, you optimize your website for search engines, which can range from Google to Bing. You’re optimizing your site for not only search engines though, but for people too.
With a well-optimized site and competitive SEO strategy, your business can earn a top spot in search results, also called search engine results pages (SERPs). For the best results, your company wants to appear in searches related to your products or services.
For example, if your company offers HVAC services, you want to appear in search results related to those services, not plumbing or electric. For many businesses, this scenario isn’t an issue, as you would rarely create and optimize website content related to searches outside your field.
2. SEO consists of an umbrella of strategies
The “optimization” part of SEO encompasses an umbrella of strategies. You can optimize your website in dozens of ways since search engines like Google rely on more than 200 factors to determine the rankings of sites in search results.
A few of the most trusted ways to optimize a website for search engines and users include:
- Designing a website that’s easy-to-use and fast
- Creating site content optimized for specific keywords or search phrases and user intent
- Writing compelling and informative meta descriptions and title tags for pages
- Fixing broken site links
- Publishing website images with a relevant filename and descriptive alt tag
- Earning valuable links to site content from reputable and relevant websites
As you can see, SEO relies on an entire team of specialists. You need web developers and web designers, as well as copywriters. Not to mention, you need a savvy SEO expert that can lead your strategy and guide your team.
That’s why many businesses invest in SEO services, which provide your company with immediate access to SEO professionals.
3. SEO focuses on organic, not paid search result rankings
Answers to “What does SEO mean?” aren’t complete without talking about organic and paid search results. Remember, SEO helps your business earn more visibility in search results. It’s important to mention, however, that SEO only targets organic search results.
In search results, many search engines include paid and organic search results.
A paid search result is an ad promoting a business and its services. That’s why searches with a purchase intent, like “hvac emergency services” tend to feature ads. You may even see ads for navigational searches, like in the example above.
Businesses can also create ads that target a competitor’s brand name, like “QuickBooks” or “TurboTax.” Overall, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising offers many companies a new strategy for promoting their goods.
While paid ads appear first in search results, it’s still valuable to earn a top spot in organic search results, which follow paid search results.
That’s because paid ads aren’t free. When someone clicks on your ad, you pay for it.
In comparison, you pay nothing when a person clicks on your site in organic search results. Not to mention, 70 percent of clicked search results are organic.
That means most users click on organic search results, rather than paid ones.
That doesn’t mean PPC advertising isn’t useful.
It’s an excellent digital advertising tool, as well as a strategy that supports SEO. You can use PPC, for example, to give your company immediate visibility in search results, which is helpful because SEO takes a few months to show results.
Even better, you can use data from your paid ad campaigns to inform your SEO strategy.
PPC advertising, for example, provides keyword data or the terms used by searchers. This keyword data can help your company determine which keywords to target in future content for your site.
If you’re thinking about SEO, also consider the potential value of a short-term PPC campaign.
4. SEO includes black- and white-hat tactics
Companies that adopt SEO can use black- and white-hat tactics.
Just because you can, however, doesn’t mean you should. That’s because black-hat tactics hurt, rather than help your SEO strategy. They can also cause extensive, long-term damage to your website’s ranking capabilities and online reputation.
A few examples of black-hat tactics include:
- Stuffing a page with keywords, hurting its readability
- Including hidden text, like white text on a white background, to target keywords
- Buying links from other websites, like link farms
In comparison, white-hat tactics allow your company’s website to rank in relevant search results.
They provide your business with that must-needed visibility in search results because they adhere to SEO best practices. Some examples of white-hat tactics include:
- Writing readable content that provides users with the information they want
- Creating quality, shareable content that earns links from reputable sites
- Adding fresh content on a routine basis
- Maintaining usability and functionality of website
- Improving speed or page load time of site
With white-hat tactics, your business can appear at the top of relevant search results.
You also avoid the penalties that come with black-hat tactics, like a ban from search engines like Google. Meaning, Google will not include your website in search results. As Google claims more than 90 percent of the search market share, you want to avoid that scenario.
5. SEO matters because of modern shopping habits
If you’re pitching SEO to company decision-makers, it’s critical to present compelling evidence that demonstrates its value. You want to show that SEO matters, as well as offers value to your business.
It’s also essential, as a part of understanding what SEO means, why it matters to organizations. People, from businesses to consumers, shop differently today.
Instead of heading to a brick-and-mortar store, many use their phone, laptop, or desktop to search for products, ask questions, read reviews, and more.
In fact, 80 percent of shoppers do product research online. Not to mention, more than half of users discover a new company or product after a search. For consumers and businesses, search engines are a critical part of their path to purchase.
If your company doesn’t appear in search results, you don’t exist.
Even if your business does appear in search results, a spot on page two, three, or four makes your company invisible to most users. That’s because only 25 percent of users move past the first page of search results.
For businesses today, that is why SEO matters.
That awareness can translate into consideration and conversion, which means a new sale or lead for your company.
To put into perspective the power and usefulness of SEO, look at the successes of our clients.
With SEO, as well as other digital marketing strategies, we’ve helped our clients earn more than $1.5 billion in revenue in the past five years. That’s tremendous, and it’s allowed our clients to pursue a variety of goals, from opening a new location to launching a new product or service.
6. SEO takes months to show results
What does SEO mean?
For many, it means an ongoing and financially rewarding commitment. A lot of businesses invest in SEO and expect immediate results. Whether you’re optimizing existing website content or launching a brand-new set of pages, your company won’t see changes in your rankings overnight.
That’s because SEO takes time.
In many cases, it can take up to several months for your team to see a change in your rankings.
A few factors, like your website’s age and history with Google, can shape your company’s timeline. An older website with zero penalties from Google, for example, may see results sooner than a brand-new site.
No matter your website’s age and history, however, you will have to wait a few months to see results. SEO is worth the wait, though.
It delivers excellent results, which is why 75 percent of businesses invest in SEO already.
With our SEO strategies, for example, we’ve helped our clients earn more than 4.6 million leads, 1.9 million phone calls, and more.
7. SEO continues to change in response to algorithm updates
Search engines like Google aim to provide the best possible experience to users.
That’s why search engine algorithms, which shape organic search result rankings, continue to undergo updates. These updates directly influence today’s SEO strategies and tactics. If your company adopts SEO, you need to take an active role in remaining up-to-date on SEO.
You can follow blogs, take courses, run workshops, and more to keep your team at the forefront of SEO strategies.
A few excellent resources for staying ahead of SEO updates include:
Even if your company partners with a reputable SEO agency, like WebFX, it’s worth keeping up-to-date.
FAQs about what SEO means in business
Got additional questions about what SEO means in business? Read our FAQ!
What does SEO stand for in business?
SEO focuses on improving your site’s visibility in search results on search engines like Google and Bing. It features an umbrella of strategies, like content marketing, to help your website appear higher in search results related to your business, products, and services.
For example, if your company provides roofing services, then you’d want to appear in search results about hiring a roofing team.
Depending on your strategy, you may even want your site to show up in search results about roof maintenance, roof design, and other roofing topics. From a business perspective, SEO means providing your company with an additional source of revenue.
Via search, your organization (even if you’re a brick-and-mortar store) can reach your target market as they shop and research their next purchase online.
Why does SEO matter to businesses?
Almost 75 percent of businesses invest in SEO, and here’s why:
SEO drives sales
Companies across all industries, from home services to manufacturing, can leverage SEO to generate sales.
That’s because 80 percent of consumers (and 71 percent of business-to-business clients) start their search for products online. When it comes to search, however, 75 percent of users stick to the first page of results.
If your company doesn’t invest in SEO, your website probably appears past the first page of results, which means a significant portion of your market doesn’t even know your business exists. With SEO, your company can change that.
You can see these results by browsing the successes of businesses that invest in SEO.
SEO improves lead generation
Depending on your industry and business model, your company may have a heavy focus on lead generation. You want to earn high-quality leads for your sales team to close, and SEO can help your business accomplish this goal.
Digital marketing, which includes SEO, provides your company with dozens of data points when it comes to your audience. With your site’s analytics, which you can access for free in Google Analytics, you can gain valuable insights about your audience from their demographics to their browsing behavior.
That information can inform your SEO strategy.
For example, you can tailor the tone, style, and writing level of your content to your audience.
This shift can have a direct impact on your target audience. It makes users feel like your business understands them, which can motivate them to submit quote requests or contact you.
Companies, from home service contractors to medical practices to software providers, have all used SEO for lead generation with success.
Our clients, for example, have earned more than 7.8 million leads in the past five years with our performance-driven strategies.
SEO boosts brand awareness
A successful marketing strategy includes building brand awareness. While brand awareness may not result in an immediate sale or lead, it can help your business start a relationship with future clients, as well as improve the loyalty of current customers.
With SEO, your business can appear in not only service- or purchase-related searches but also queries signature to users in the early stages of the buying funnel. They may ask about the value of a service, for example, or search for answers related to a common problem, like lawn weeds.
As your company continues to appear higher in search results, you become a trusted point-of-reference for shoppers.
When they’re ready to purchase, call, or inquire about a product, expect your business to earn a spot on their list.
SEO generates real company growth
If you’re looking for a shorthand version of SEO’s meaning in business, it’s simple.
SEO creates real, tangible growth for your company. It helps you increase your revenue, which makes it possible for your business to expand into a new area, hire new team members, or even launch a new product or service.
In today’s technology-driven world, people rely on the Internet to find what they need. They go to their favorite search engine to ask questions, find answers, and discover the products and services they want.
If your company doesn’t appear in searches, you don’t exist to the modern consumer.
That’s why SEO is critical for businesses today.
How does SEO work?
When it comes to explaining how SEO works, it can quickly become confusing. If you want your company’s leaders to sign-off on SEO, you need to ensure they understand SEO.
That means explaining SEO in terms that make sense for them, as well as answering their questions. Ok, so how does SEO work for businesses that adopt it? In four steps:
Before you can start optimizing your website for search and users, your company needs to evaluate your current status when it comes to SEO.
WebFX SEO Checker
- It’s comprehensive
- It’s immediate.
- It’s FREE.
Remember, SEO builds your online visibility in relevant search results. It’s up to your in-house team or SEO agency to determine which search results matter to your business and its goals. That’s where keyword research comes into use.
With keyword research, your team investigates keywords related to your business, as well as used by your target audience.
You can uncover relevant keywords a few ways, like by researching your competitors or browsing your social media.
Once you audit your website and research your keywords, your company can start optimizing your site.
In some cases, your business may develop a strategy, which details your game plan and what your company wants to accomplish with SEO. If you partner with an SEO agency, like WebFX, you can expect a well-researched, custom strategy.
Optimizing your website can include several steps, like the following:
- Updating your title tags and meta descriptions
- Adding your targeted keywords to specific pages
- Changing your image filenames
- Improving your page speed
- Modifying your page URLs
- Redesigning your website’s navigation
As some of these steps require web design and web development expertise, your team may need to collaborate with other departments. Or, you can partner with a full-service agency, like WebFX, which can take care of all your SEO needs.
When you invest in SEO, you make a long-term and ongoing investment. Your business can’t optimize all your content and then leave it. Otherwise, any increased visibility your site gains in search results will decay as competitors launch their SEO strategies.
That’s why your company needs to continue to create new content, as well as optimize old content.
With this proactive step, you can gain additional ground, appearing in more search results relevant to your business and your audience. With re-optimization, your company can expect to follow the process of auditing and optimization.
What does an SEO company do for businesses?
While many businesses manage their SEO in-house, it’s a challenge for small-to-midsized companies.
Even for massive companies, it’s difficult to lead SEO initiatives internally. That’s why these organizations partner with SEO agencies.
An SEO company provides your business with everything it needs when it comes to SEO.
They audit your website, develop your strategy, optimize your site, and measure your results. Plus, they have access to SEO software and technology that provide in-depth reporting to you and your company decision-makers.
WebFX is an example of an SEO agency. With our decades of experience, plus advanced artificial intelligence tech, we’re one of the top SEO companies for small-to-midsized businesses.
That’s why our client recommendation score exceeds the industry average by 488 percent.
How much do businesses spend on SEO?
If you’re looking to partner with an SEO agency, small-to-midsized businesses spend an average of $350 to $2000 per month. For many businesses, this is a cost-effective amount, especially when considering the additional responsibilities and limited time of your marketing team.
Should your company decide to partner with a professional SEO company, watch for agencies promoting “cheap” or “low” monthly prices. These offers can seem great, but they often leave your business with little show for when it comes to SEO results.
Choose an experienced agency with reasonable prices instead. While your business may pay more upfront, you will receive a better client experience, as well as better results.
For your company and your team, that helps you earn more from SEO.
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