What is SEO?

New web users often ask ‘What is SEO?’ It’s a term bandied about in Internet forums, help books and marketing seminars, but for the uninitiated it seems foreign and confusing; SEO help abounds but if what it is is unknown in the first place, it’s worth stepping back and getting it straight before taking the plunge.

At a starting level, SEO means Search Engine Optimisation. Basic SEO is how search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo! create the list of sites that are shown when someone types a word or phrase into the search bar. For instance, type in ‘computer’ and the user will be presented with all sorts of websites describing what computers are, selling computers and components, listing uses for computers etc.

The search engine makes a determination as to a) what sites are relevant for the word(s) the user has typed in and b) in what order to list them. This determination is worked out by a hugely involved and complicated algorithm written into the search engine itself. So for the word ‘computer’, the search engine will first look at all the sites which it considers relevant to computers and then display them in an order that it will calculate, based on a series of things.

Having a company’s website be relevant to lots of words or phrases and making it as high up the list of displayed sites as is possible can be worth huge amounts of money in terms of increased site traffic and by extension increased custom. How websites and companies try to make themselves more relevant and higher up the search listings is by optimising their sites for the search engines; hence, Search Engine Optimisation – SEO.