What is SEO: A Simple Step-by-Step Tutorial for Beginners

22 Min Read. |

SEO is not dead! Yes, you heard it right.

In fact, SEO is anything but dead.

Either you already know that SEO is not dead or you believe that we will soon see the end of SEO. In both cases, we have something to offer. Read on.

Case 1:

If the above excerpt seemed ambiguous and perplexing, you have landed on the right page. In this article, we will address the basics of SEO which will include everything, what is SEO, SEO meaning, and how SEO works. We will deeply discuss the intricate aspects of search engine optimization until you start believing that SEO is anything but dead.

Case 2:

However, if you already know that SEO is not a dying industry, you can peek into the insights of the industry. This, right here, is a good chance to go back to the basics and understand how SEO works, what is SEO, and how it makes a difference in your social media strategy. As we move further in this discussion, we will deliver valuable data on how you can build a career in SEO.

So, let’s move on and enter the world of search engine optimization.

We believe in basics. It is always good for your career to revisit the basics and then explore further. Hence, since we believe in the power of fundamentals, we will start the most basic question of what is SEO.

SEO is short for search engine optimization. It is the art of optimizing your web content in a manner to reach the first page of search engines, in the organic listing.

Learn about SEO

If we simply explain search engine optimization definition, here’s what it means:

SEO is a process which involves several techniques that help in optimizing the web content related to a brand. This optimization makes it easier for the search engines to display your web page in the top organic listings.

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization Source – Freepik

If you still have doubts, here’s an example:

If you open your browser and search what is SEO on Google, you will find 3-4 paid ads on the top. Then you will see some web pages related to what is SEO. Any non-marketing professional who wants to know about how SEO works will check the links on the first page of Google.

If they don’t find what they are looking for, they will check a few links on the second page. But, that’s it. After this, to continue the search, the user will change the keyword.

Reaching on the first page of Google listings through organic methods is all about SEO. Even if you are on the second page or third page, you are non-existent to most of the users.

Quick Fact: 75% of the audience will not even check the second page of Google search or search engines.

Do you want to appear on the first page of a search engine? Jump to the next subsection.

What Is SEO: SEO Meaning and Examples

Under this section, we will discuss the basic elements of SEO. For instance, what is SEO in digital marketing, how SEO works on social media, and what types of SEO techniques are good and bad?

What Is SEO Marketing?

Search Engine Optimization in marketing means improving your traffic. SEO techniques are utilized in marketing to increase the number of users landing on your page.

However, it is also necessary to improve the quality of this traffic. If people who are not actually your audience are landing on your page, you will achieve no value from this type of conversion.

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Search Engine Optimization Definition by Moz

What is SEO as explained by Moz:

“Search Engine Optimization is the process of improving the visibility of a website on organic (“natural” or unpaid) search engine result pages (SERPs), by incorporating search engine friendly elements into a website. A successful search engine optimization campaign will have, as part of the improvements, carefully select, relevant, keywords which the on-page optimization will be designed to make prominent for search engine algorithms.”

If we unfold what is SEO meaning in this definition, we will get the same search engine optimization definition explained above.

The first line talks of how incorporating elements on the website increase visibility. The elements are keywords and visibility are directly related to the traffic of the website.

The second line talks of how selecting the right keywords for on-page optimization can successfully improve your visibility to search engine algorithms.

SEO Marketing

SEO Marketing Source – Freepik

Black Hat SEO & White Hat SEO

As we know, some people want to improve visibility in the long-term but some want it all quickly. The second type of people are the ones that get in trouble. Let’s see how:

The first one is a white hat SEO and the second one is black hat SEO. We will discuss black hat SEO first.

When marketers want to reach the first page of Google or other search engines quickly, often overnight, they use black hat SEO.

Black hat SEO means working only for the algorithms of the search engines. The content is not relevant to human minds at all. It is not new for black hat SEO to gain a boost of customers in the first few days. But, this doesn’t yield any value to any customer.

The breaking and bending of natural SEO rules lead to high engagement and high amount of money at first. However, eventually, the site may be blocked by search engines.

So a sustainable, long-term future is a lost cause in this case.

Have you ever opened a page about what is SEO but then landed on a completely different page about dogs? If you have done this, then you know how SEO works when using black hat techniques.

Nevertheless, this approach is completely worthless. It offers no value to users, and search engines have now become smart enough to ban these websites forever.

Black Hat SEO & White Hat SEO

Black Hat SEO & White Hat SEO Source – CrazzyEgg

What is SEO White Hat Techniques?

White hat SEO is the opposite of black hat SEO. It helps you build a sustainable user-base. You can focus on your audience, deliver value to them, and retain your customers over time.

It has the following features. Check below what is SEO and its white hat tricks:

1. The content delivered through digital media offers value to users in some of the other manner. It can promote a product or service of the company but the content is valuable to the audience.

2. The content has images which are correctly labeled according to the keywords utilized in the content.

3. The reference links are properly attached and back-linking is correctly achieved.

4. The grammar and spellings of the content are correct. The content is often short, in a readable range.

5. The content follows HTML compliance standards.

However, in practice, most of the marketers neither use what is SEO and its white hat SEO techniques nor black hat SEO tricks. We use grey hat SEO.

Just as the name suggests, it is not completely white or black. It is something in between.

Grey hat techniques- What Google has to say

However, it is necessary to understand that grey hat techniques are not downright manipulative. In fact, it is not manipulative at all. Read why this is so:

Google says that they don’t recommend or believe in guest blogging or guest posts. But, every business uses it today. If you want to get in the good books of your audience, you have to utilize guest blogging at some point.

Many marketers will swear against grey hat SEO and many will stay in favor and that is actually the essence of SEO. Because, for every marketer, the success of what is SEO depends solely on the execution strategy.

For example, many marketers like Ross Hudgens explains how SEO works with scalable link building tricks and there is nothing wrong with the tactics. But, if you look at it, then most of the scalable link building tricks are black hat SEO.

This is because it is easier to build links in several industries but it is harder to build links for other industries.

Take the supplement industry, for example. MailChimp doesn’t allow supplement organizations to use their email service. How do you expect a supplement organization to build links or reach out to their audience?

It is not as simple as it sounds, right?

Take a skin-whitening cream. Do you think any journalist will promote it in a flattering manner? They would receive huge backlash from the audience.

The Actual Reason Grey Hat SEO Is More Popular than White Hat SEO

Grey Hat SEO

Grey Hat SEO Source – NetoTraffic

When someone asks what is SEO, we instantly link it to algorithms. The reason for the grey hat’s popularity is linked to algorithms only.

The algorithms utilized by search engines keep evolving and SEO techniques keep changing. So, in this environment of continuous change, the void of what is bad and good remains intact. There are factors that determine the ranking of a Google page as per SEO experts and Google itself:

1.  More page links.

2. High domain authority.

3. Good on-page markup.

You will still find many websites lingering at the bottom of the first Google page even when these pages rank above in these three parameters than competitors.

This is proof that we can still tweak black hat and white hat techniques because the line between ‘the good’ and ‘the bad’ is blurred here. But, of course, what is SEO and it’s grey hat techniques depend on the marketer.

You have to make a judgment call, assess the odds, see what Google prefers, and then move forward.

Knowing how you can deliver the most value to your users is the thing that matters the most. It is also a factor most appreciated by a search engine. After all, that is why search engines develop a series of algorithms – to help users receive valuable content.

Let’s move forward and quickly analyze the key factors of what is SEO in digital marketing.

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What Is SEO: Key Factors

SEO Factors

SEO Factors Source – Freepik

1. Search Engine

The search engine is a software system that hosts all your search results.

Did you know that Google currently has more than 80% of the search market share? So, if you are successful in bringing your website on the first page of Google, you have done most of the work.

However, optimizing your website for Google search is certainly not a cakewalk. It is a lot harder than we think and that is why we suggest taking up a relevant course to understand the basics of SEO, what is SEO, and what is SEO in digital marketing.

2. Traffic

Do you wish to increase your website’s traffic with SEO techniques?

Here’s the thing about traffic:

If you get a high volume of customers but if they are not relevant to your target audience base, then it is not worth it. And if you get a low volume of customers but everyone is relevant, then also it is not worth it.

Extremes of each traffic side are not beneficial to any marketer. You have to strike a chord between volume and quality traffic.

However, this traffic should not be achieved by compromising the experience of the users. Poor customer experience may ultimately impact your traffic’s quality and quantity, which will decrease your search engine ranking. Then, you will reach to square one.

So, start right!

SEO Techniques

SEO Techniques Source – Freepik

3. Search Results

When you search something on the search engine such as what is search engine optimization, you receive relevant results. These results are called search results. There are two types of search results:

1. Paid search results, which are not really a part of your what is SEO strategy.

2. Unpaid results, which are a part of your SEO strategy. In fact, the search query displays organic results in this section.

    The search engine optimization definition states that it aims to optimize traffic of the website based on the search results. This is achieved with the best SEO practices, which help the website move up in the search results until there is a relevant place on the first page of the search engine. In essence, this is the overall purpose of SEO.

    4. On-Page and Off-Page SEO

    There are two types of SEO: On-page and off-page. Both are really important in your overall SEO strategy.

    On-page SEO is about what Google thinks of your website.

    This means that the search engines would crawl on your website and go through your content. It includes checking your headlines, meta-description, page structure, and content. This is the part of SEO that you can actually work on. 

    Off-page SEO includes multiple variables that are referred by search engines. These variables are not easy to modify.

    For instance, before showing search engine results, Google will go through the search history of users, check other similar resources, and peek at your social media. You can’t always modify off-page SEO. However, there are some SEO techniques that can help you with off-page SEO.

    When we consider what is SEO marketing, both on-page and off-page SEO are included in it. And no matter how difficult or different it may be to optimize both, you have to achieve it for an overall growth strategy.

    To understand this concept better, consider the following example.

    Case 1:

    You have a lawn in your house. The lawn is filthy but the house is super clean. But, does it matter? Because with a dirty lawn no one will visit your house in the first place so they won’t get to see your house at all.

    What is the SEO element in this case?

    Even with great content and an appealing website, your off-page SEO steals away most of your audience. No one will ever know about your masterpiece because no search engine is referring to it.

    Case 2:

    If your lawn is super clean but the house is dirty, the situation will be the same in this case as well. Although people will visit your home, they will leave before you can even spell search engine optimization.

    It is also interesting to note that if your viewers leave after checking only one page, it is not considered a successful visit. Google takes it as a bounce and we all know, the higher the bounce rate the lower the ranking.

    This is why you require both on-page and off-page SEO to successfully improve the ranking of your page.

    So, let’s understand both on-page and off-page SEO in detail.

    (a) On-Page SEO

    On-Page SEO

    On-Page SEO Source – Freepik

    (i) Content

    Bill Gates once said, “Content is king,” and we simply can’t agree more. Whenever you search something on the search engines, you are using content to make the search engine understand your purpose.

    For example, if you search what is SEO, Google won’t just give you any wayward link and content found online. It will do a ton of research to give the best possible outcome, which is also the closest match of what is SEO.

    Here are some of the factors that deliver good content:

    1. Using SEO Strategy:

      It is necessary to understand that coming up with quality content is not as easy as it sounds.

      While only writing great content would not make you unique and search engine friendly, it can still offer a Kickstart to your what is SEO strategy. This is true for any business that is currently wondering what is SEO in digital marketing.

      More than anything, you need to know a lot about the subject yourself. As many businesses fall short on this aspect, they hire people who have great knowledge of content and related field.

      Then, the writer should actually be a teacher because every time you deliver content to your audience, you are trying to deliver some value. To deliver this value, you have to be a teacher and teach the audience in the simplest yet most engaging manner.

      Further, it is not always necessary to start every article from scratch. But, eventually, you are expected to do it because uniqueness makes a great selling point, even to search engines.

      Initially, take references from the topics that are already covered by people in the industry. Then, slowly move towards creating unique and research-based content.

      2. Keyword research:

      It is a crucial task and there is no denying to that. You have to, in fact, search for the keywords even before you start writing because you need to include it in the heading, subheadings, and throughout the content several times. Searching it later and adding it to the content later only reduce the flow of the content, which reduces your ranking.

      SEO Factors

      SEO Factors Source – Freepik

      However, remember that you always need to keep learning about what is SEO and what is SEO in marketing. You don’t need to give exams, purchase a book, or follow 100 blogposts. You only have to choose your favorite channels online and stay updated.

      3. Avoid Keyword stuffing:

      Google has evolved a lot in the past decade. You can’t use the same methods that you used even 2 years ago.

      While you still have to use target keywords (such as what is SEO) all through the blog post or article, you don’t want to include it everywhere. It will only reduce your ranking and hurt your search engine reputation.

      So, this thing is totally off the table. Simply avoid using the target keyword (such as What is SEO) too many times.

      It is amazing to note that Google now has become so intelligent that it can understand almost the exact meaning of what you are willing to search. Simply put, if you search something on Google, it will not only search for this keyword but also look for synonyms of this keyword.

      As long as marketers ensure the presence of keywords at strategic locations such as headline, meta-description, and URL, you can skip mentioning the keyword too many times.

      4. Frequent Posting of Fresh Content

      The HubSpot benchmark has again revealed that posting frequently can help you increase your Google rankings. However, you need to post fresh content.

      Of course, you don’t have to come up with new content every time. Sometimes, you can just update your previous content and post it again regularly.

      Apart from this, we still can’t deny the fact that posting regularly and consistently is also beneficial. Many marketers receive high SEO ranking only by posting one time every month.

      5. Define your SEO clearly

      It is possible for Google to show a direct answer to users. For instance, if a user searches what is SEO, Google may show the answer beneath the search bar. However, this is only possible if you have clearly defined what is SEO and it is accessible to search engines.

      This is also why many marketers are eliminating the use of jargon in their content. These unnecessary jargons make the content unreadable to the search engines and Google.

      (ii) Keyword

      Although we have already covered keyword research in the above section, it is imperative for search engine optimization definition. This is because a large part of your search engine strategy is about the right keywords.

      Keywords in your content tell a lot. It shows what your content is about, what your brand is portraying online, and it even tells a lot about your link building.

      However, the mistake that most people make is, they stop. They stop searching for the keyword, they stop updating their content, and they just stop putting efforts in it.

      What is SEO? It is about making constant efforts to redesign your pages and keep the keywords updated.

      Here are some of the mistakes that marketers make while searching for the keyword.

      1.Wrong Keyword:

      The wrong keyword is the number one factor that spoils all your SEO efforts. This is because you are not offering any value to the audience you are attracting.

      For example, you are ranking on the first number for what is SEO marketing tips. But, you actually offer digital services that cost a lot. You will attract a lot of audiences that can’t offer value to you and you can’t offer value to the audience.

      Your efforts are wasted which will decrease your online reputation.

      2. Selecting the keyword without considering competition:

      Another common mistake is selecting the right keyword but not considering the competition. What if you select the right keyword but the competition has high domain authority and linking root domains?

      You will require several months or maybe years to compete with your competitors on the search engine.

      In answer to this issue, many marketers straightaway go to long-tail keywords. For instance, if the keyword was what is SEO, they would choose what is SEO in digital marketing.

      However, what we are ignoring here is that competitor for this long-tail keyword can also be strong. Then, it would make no sense to include a long-tail keyword.

      The answer to this issue is think-out-of-the-box and find a keyword that is relevant, less competitive, and can still offer considerable traffic.

      3. Ignorance of Search Intent:

       Most of the marketers look for keywords such as what is SEO. But, they are ignoring the search intent. This means the reason why people are searching on Google. Using search intent, you can find some relevant keywords that are not too competitive.

      To achieve this, search for the most-used keyword and analyze the drop-down that appears on Google. All these available keywords in the drop-down can offer you some value.

      After this, search for the keyword and scroll to the bottom of the page; you will find some more relevant keywords here. 

      If you search what is SEO on Google, you will get options like what is SEO marketing, search engine optimization techniques, etc.

      (iii) HTML

      It is not necessary to learn to code or become a designer to understand this section of HTML. But, you need to have some knowledge to successfully execute your SEO strategy. Check out the 4 elements that you should optimize for all your content pieces.

      1. First, set the title tag. This title tag is the headline as we see in the newspaper. It is the headline of the content.

      Every content communication of your website should contain an H1 tag because it is easier for search engines to scan through H1 tags.

      2. Second, optimize your meta-description. If you have correctly defined the meta-description, it is highly unlikely for the search engine to clip it or end it mid-sentence. Use your keyword clearly in the meta-description.

      3. Third, use a schema for what is SEO strategy. The semantic vocabulary of your microdata can be added to your HTML in order to enhance your SEO meaning.

      One method to improve schema is by adding subheads. While H2, H3, H4, etc. tags won’t matter as much as an H1 tag, they still contribute to your SEO.


      SEO Source – Freepik

      (iv) Architecture

      Architecture is the technical aspect of your SEO strategy. When asking what is SEO, no one expects anything technical. But, the technical part is still there.

      For example, fast load time. It matters a lot.

      1. Ensure easy crawling through indexing to help your audience move from one page to another easily. Properly index your website pages and create valuable links between these pages to improve access.

      2. It is not suggested to post duplicate content on your website. If you are re-sharing a guest post, you won’t face issues. But, if you copy a post from a competitor who has high domain authority than yours, then you are in trouble.

      3. If your website is not mobile-friendly, your SEO ranking instantly drops because it is really important.

      4. Page speed is another important factor. If your webpage takes 20 seconds to load, your users would be pacing back-and-forth and they will leave.

      (b) Off-Page SEO

      For your off-page SEO strategy, you have to take care of four important elements. Let’s discuss these elements in detail.

      1. Above all, search engines need to trust your brand. If Google is going to show your website on the first page of results, it needs to know you are a big brand.

      For this, you should improve your domain authority and page authority. Bounce rate also impacts trust because a high bounce rate means that customers don’t like your content. This means that search engines can’t trust you.

      2. You need to create backlinks. Ensure the quality and number of your backlinks.

      3. Google always displays content relevant to the personal choices of the individual based on the origin. A person in India would receive pictures of food when their search query is Dishes. But, a person in the UK will just receive pictures of a bowl used to serve food.

      Hence, use geo-tagging and web translator for this purpose.

      4. Lastly, ensure good social media outreach. Search engines trust you more if you have social media shares, mentions, and backlinks.

      How SEO Works: Career in Search Engine Optimization

      What is SEO? Certainly, a question every budding marketer asks. If you are also one of those people who wish to have a career in search engine optimization, read on.

      It is not hard to guess that every budding marketer has already heard that SEO is dead.

      But, do you really think so? How can SEO be probably dead if search engines are still working on keywords?

      The reason why SEO market is considered dead is that it is becoming smarter as we speak. Every day, Google changes its algorithms and tweaks are made to SEO. Keeping up with all these modifications is not an easy job.

      This is also the reason why we need skilled SEO professionals who can work on an effective SEO strategy. No business is waiting around for professionals who only know the Wikipedia definition of what is SEO. Everyone needs continuous changes, evolution, and innovative methods to stay relevant in the market.

      Fortunately, with the right education and support through online sources and a course, you can achieve that.

      Career in Search Engine Optimization

      Career in Search Engine Optimization Source – Freepik

      5 SEO Trends You Need to Learn

      Every budding marketer already has so much on their plate. Even if they don’t want to specifically work as an SEO person, they still need to know what is SEO and how SEO works. It is necessary to collaborate with the team and effectively maintain consistency across social media channels.

      Hence, we have prepared a list of 5 trends that you need to learn. Check the details below:

      1. Mobile Optimization

      We all have smartphones and we don’t even need to explain its importance in our lives. For a generation that practically lives off a gadget, non-optimized mobile SEO strategy simply reduces your conversions and customer experience.

      SEO Tip: Start with your mobile SEO strategy. You need to optimize your content for mobile users first and then move ahead. If you do the other way round, you can possibly get lost on the web.

      2. Social Media Optimization

      What is SEO social media optimization?

      If mobile is the bread of SEO, social media is butter. This is to say that social media is the centre of our universe today. Everything is online and everyone is online.

      You can sell, promote, purchase, and market on social media. How can you even think of leaving social media optimization behind?

      You simply can’t.

      If you have an online presence, you need to have SEO optimized strategy for every channel. It is not even an argument. Every business is required to achieve it.

      SEO Tip: Craft a great social media strategy to achieve greater engagement and higher number of likes. If social media thinks you are good, Google will automatically start liking you. So, optimize your social strategy to improve outreach and awareness.

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      3. Content Optimization

      Content can’t be separated from search engine optimization definition. Everything included in what is SEO revolves around the content you generate. Even when we were talking about social media, it was mostly related to the content you post and the content your audience posts about you.

      So, as long as you keep providing valuable, unique, and quality content to your audience, you have nothing to worry about. But, if your content is not up-to-the-mark, you are not achieving half of your goal. Your rankings are bound to decrease.

      SEO Tip: Focus on creating and writing content that is valuable to your audience. You don’t want to throw promotional pieces or keyword filled pages at them. Focus more on content quality and utilize your target keyword at relevant places.

      Content Optimization

      Content Optimization Source – Freepik

      4. Voice Optimization

      With Alexa, Siri, and other personal assistants, voice searches are about to increase in the near future. Your audience won’t be typing in the keyword. They would rather instruct their assistants to search for them.

      If you are not thinking in this direction already, you are one step behind in your strategy.

      SEO Tip: Consider including popular keywords in your content. Think of keywords that the user might use during voice command and then place it in your content strategically.

      5. Context of the Content

      We have already discussed about Search Engine Optimization is all about context now. Google searches for the context of the keyword, not just the keyword.

      For instance, if you search for Search Engine Optimization on your search engine, Google will also look for synonyms of the same, such as what is search engine optimization definition

      SEO Tip: Using the context of search in your content strategy is also related to keywords. So, try and utilize the most popular synonyms of your main keyword in the content.


      From the above article, I hope you have got a detailed explanation of both what is SEO and what is SEO in Digital Marketing. If you wish to start a career in search engine optimization, go through the above sections and understand the basics of SEO. Then, do a Search Engine Optimization course to gain expertise in the domain.

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      1. Jitendra Prasad

        Nice article.

        • Niharika Mahendra

          Thanks Jitendra


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