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Search engine optimization is nowadays more important than ever and it is necessary for every webmaster to understand the true meaning of SEO as well as the potential it creates for every business.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization or SEO in short, is a set of rules that can be followed by website (or blog) owners to optimize their websites for search engines and thus improve their search engine rankings.

In addition, it is a great way to increase the quality of your web site by making it user- friendly, faster and easier to navigate.

SEO can also be considered as a framework since the whole process has a number of rules (or guidelines), a number of stages and a set of controls.

Why is SEO important?

In today’s competitive market, SEO marketing is more important than ever. Search engines serve millions of users per day looking for answers to their questions or for solutions to their problems.

 

If you have a web site, blog or online store, SEO can help your business grow and meet the business objectives.

Search engine optimization is important because:

  • The majority of search engines users are more likely to click on one of the top 5 suggestions in the results pages (SERPS). To take advantage of this and gain visitors to your web site or customers to your online store, your website needs to appear in one of the top positions.
  • SEO is not only about search engines but good SEO practices improve the user experience and usability of a web site.
  • Users trust search engines and having a presence in the top positions for the keywords the user is searching, increases the web site’s trust.
  • SEO is good for the social promotion of your web site. People who find your web site by searching Google or Yahoo are more likely to promote it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or other social media channels.
  • SEO is important for the smooth running of a big web site. Web sites with more than one author can benefit from SEO in a direct and indirect way. Their direct benefit is increase in search engine traffic and their indirect benefit is having a common framework (checklists) to use before publishing content on the site.
  • SEO can put you ahead of the competition. If two web sites are selling the same thing, the search engine optimized web site is more likely to have more customers and make more sales.

What are the main stages of the Search Engine Optimization process?

As I mentioned above, SEO is not a static process but rather a framework with rules and processes.

For simplicity though, SEO can be broken down into 3 main stages:

Technical SEO: With technical SEO you can ensure that search engines can crawl and index your website with out any issues.

On-site SEO: Rules to apply on your site and content to make it search engine friendly.

Off-site SEO: Ways to promote your website or blog so that it can rank higher in search results.

Technical SEO

The first stage in the SEO process is called technical SEO. As the name implies, technical SEO has nothing to do with the actual content of a website or with website promotion methods.

It has to do with settings you need to configure to make the job of search engine crawlers easier. Usually, once you get your technical SEO correct, you may not have to deal with it again.

On the other hand, if you have problems with crawling and indexing, it can negatively impact on your rankings.

To perform a technical SEO audit review and ensure that everything is working as expected, read our Technical SEO Guide.

On-site SEO

The second stage is On-Page SEO. On-Page SEO has to do primarily with the content and other elements found on a page.

Unlike technical and off-page SEO, the main focus of on-page SEO is to provide search engine crawlers enough signals so that they can understand the meaning and context of your content.

Remember that search engines don’t read a page like a human so they are looking for signals to figure out what a page is all about.

It is at this stage that you will deal with website structure, keywords, title optimizations, headings, internal links, image SEO, structured data markup and other techniques that can send the right signals to search engines.

If followed correctly, on-page SEO will also improve the usability and credibility of a website or blog.

Note that content optimization is part of on-page SEO but sometimes this is referred to as Content SEO.

Our On-Page SEO Guide explains the different on-page SEO techniques in detail.

Off-site SEO

The third stage is Off-Page SEO.

Besides the changes you can do to your website (on-site SEO) so that it ranks higher in the SERPs, the other way to improve your website’s ranking position is by using off-site SEO techniques.

Off-site SEO is generally known as link building but I prefer to use the term web site promotion since a proper way to promote a website involves much more methods and techniques than building links.