What is SEO?

At its heart SEO is very simple.

People use search engines – like Google, Bing or Yahoo – for a number of reasons, primarily:

  • To obtain information – for instance, someone might search; what is a cheetah's top running speed?
  • To navigate somewhere online – such as searching for Facebook or Ebay Australia
  • To purchase something – for example, someone might search; hire a car in Perth.

As business people, each of us offers something of value in exchange for money. Marketing is a critical piece of the business puzzle as it makes your target audience aware of your product or service. As indicated above, there are a large segment of people online who use search engines to look for something transactional. They have money and they’re looking online to spend it.

SEO is about trying to get your website to rank highly in search results when people search for your product or service in the hopes of getting them to click through to your website and ultimately gaining their business.

Organic and paid results in search

The following image is a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) for the transactional query, “buy computer equipment”:

What is SEO - Search Engine Results Page screenshot


Everything outlined in RED represents paid advertising. Thus, these companies are paying Google – the search engine you are using – to place their company and products up the top of the page. A search engine’s paid advertising is NOT SEO, and most search engines quite clearly distinguish the paid advertising from organic results.

Everything outlined in GREEN is an organic result. These results are automatically generated by search engines through a ranking algorithm, which is applied to each individual search. SEO is concerned with getting your business’s website to rank at the top when people are actively searching for your type of business.

Does my business need SEO?

SEO is a popular buzzword, and there are many agencies out there trying to sell it to your company. While SEO is highly beneficial for a lot of companies, not every business needs it. It’s quite simple to figure out whether SEO would be valuable to your company, you simply need to answer this question:

  • Do people proactively search for your product or service online? (Or will they do so in the future?)

If they do, then it’s likely that SEO will benefit your company. If they don’t, then other marketing channels may be more appropriate.

Be cautious about who you hire to do SEO

Google considers businesses to be fully responsible for what they do to their websites. As SEO is a large field, there are a number of people doing it and it can be approached in different ways.

Some people who do SEO approach it in a manner that Google does not like – that is, trying to trick the algorithm into ranking a website better, instead of working together with Google to achieve a common goal. When you approach someone to do SEO for you, make sure you understand the techniques they use and whether Google approves those techniques.