What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the set of changes to & about a website which seeks to increase the amount & qualitative nature of visitors to that websites via the organic search results of search engines.

To grasp what SEO involves it is important to sub-define the following:

Qualitative nature of visitors: Visitors need to arrive at your website for the right reason & with the right expectations. Visitors should be met with content that they are looking for & that adds value to their lives (be it educational, informational, entertainment or otherwise). This type of visitor will engage with your content more fully & have a better chance of becoming customers for your product or services than one’s who are not being served with the information or content that they require.

Amount of traffic: Fairly self-explanatory – the more high quality traffic, the better.
Organic results. Ads make up a significant portion of many SERPs. Organic traffic is any traffic that you don’t have to pay for.

Organic search results: the free, merit/algorithmic based portion of the search engine results page (SERP). Essentially any portion of the Google/Bing/Yahoo results page that does not require payment to place there. Google make up 70% of Global desktop searches by volume & over 90% of mobile searches by volume.

How Search Engines work

A search engine is a website you visit where you can ask a question & have a ranked list returned of links to webpages that hopefully answer that question.

Why does Google (or Bing) rank the webpages in the order it does though?

Essentially a search engine is three things:

  1. A crawler that reads the entirety of the Internet.
  2. A index made up of what the crawler has found/read.
  3. An algorithm matches search queries to webpages within the index.

How Optimization Works in SEO

Optimization is the set of efforts & strategies utilized to make content readable, understandable & prominent/authoritative to search engines so that they will send their users via organic search results for search terms that will yield quality traffic.

Because search engine algorithms are altered (sometimes majorly, mostly minorly) pretty much all of the time; SEO efforts need to change with them. 
Optimization is an endeavor that takes myriad forms. Broadly speaking SEO efforts take one of two forms: on-site SEO & off-site SEO. On-site SEO is concerned with immediately controllable aspects of how your website is set up to be crawled, indexed & interpreted by search engine algorithms for maximal search prominence in niche’s that are of worth to your website/business. Off-site SEO is concerned with how authoritative & prominent your website is deemed or interpreted to be in the eye’s of search engines based up its implied importance from how it is revered by the rest of the Internet via inbound links. Techniques used in SEO include using keywords and keyword analysis, content creation (on-site SEO) & backlinking & link building (off-site SEO).

The truth is a great deal of SEO remains pure speculation. Google, for example, share some but not all of the reasons they rank certain webpages higher than certain other webpages with the public & SEO community. There is a great deal of uncertainty regarding certain aspects of SEO – & anyone who tells you differently is either lying, deluded or just plain nuts. The major weapons an SEO has in his arsenal are knowledge, experience & intuition.