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What is SEO?

What is SEO cover art by Forge Marketing Group

One of the most widely misunderstood and poorly practiced aspects of building a strong online presence is SEO. Because of the confusion, lack of transparency, and snake oil in the field of SEO, many businesses are hesitant to invest in its implementation.

Though understandable and even justifiable, it is unfortunate that businesses feel like they must approach SEO agencies with caution because properly-implemented SEO can generate TONS of revenue for businesses by increasing the number of people who view their website or local business listings.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at:

  • What SEO is

  • What Actions SEO Includes

  • Why SEO is often Poorly Executed

  • Why There Aren’t SEO Quality Standards

What is SEO?

SEO aka Search Engine Optimization is the practice of getting a website to rank higher in the results of a search engine for search terms or “keywords” that are relevant to what the website offers.

For example: If you’ve got a website that sells specialty adhesives, you might perform SEO to help your website rank higher in search engines for searches related to the keyword “wood glue.”

Search engines are websites where people find information, content, resources, etc. by typing in questions or keywords. Google is the biggest search engine with Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Yahoo to follow. Believe it or not, YouTube is also considered a search engine!

Most companies only focus on Google for their SEO strategy since it offers the most organic traffic from its searches. Even though the bulk of SEO strategy is built around Google, many of the actions help businesses rank on the other search engines since their algorithms function similarly to Google’s.

SEO is a Set of Actions!

Unlike something that is cut and dry as say a Facebook ad, SEO is a little more complicated. This is because SEO is a fluid set of actions that changes depending on several factors relating to your business and where it sits in the digital landscape.

Some of these factors include your website, competitors, location, industry, audience, reputation, and existing online presence. As we mentioned, these factors influence which actions an SEO team performs and the order in which the actions are executed.

These actions can be split into two categories:

On-Page Actions – What is done to the business’s website.

Off-Page Actions – What is done outside of the business’s website.

On-page SEO vs off-page SEO infographic

On-Page SEO Actions

For on-page SEO actions, the focus is on improving your website and its web pages so that search engines can better understand the website’s content and how to rank it in search results.

A major benefit to implementing on-page SEO actions is that it improves the functionality of your website as well as the value it offers to visitors which contributes to a better interactive experience and overall online presence.

Below are some of the most common and frequently performed on-page SEO actions.

Keyword Optimization: Researching and strategically using relevant keywords in the content, meta tags, headings, and URLs to target specific search queries.

Page Speed Optimization: Improve loading times by compressing images, minifying CSS and JavaScript, leveraging browser caching, and using Content Delivery Networks (CDNs).

High-Quality Content: Creating valuable, informative, and engaging content (e.g. tools, infographics, videos, blogs, and other resources) that matches the search intent of users and addresses their queries.

Title Tags: Crafting unique and descriptive title tags for each page, including the target keyword to give search engines a clear idea of the page's topic.

Meta Descriptions: Writing compelling meta descriptions that provide a brief summary of the page's content and encourage users to click through from search results.

Headers (H1, H2, H3, etc.): Organizing content with proper header tags to improve readability and help search engines understand the page's structure.

Image Optimization: Optimizing images with alt text, descriptive filenames, and proper sizes to improve page load times and make images accessible to search engines.

Internal Linking: Adding relevant internal links within the content to help search engines discover and index other pages on the website.

User Experience (UX): Ensuring that the page is easy to navigate, loads quickly, and provides a positive experience for users.

Mobile-Friendliness: Ensuring that the page is responsive and displays properly on various devices, particularly mobile phones and tablets.

Off-Page SEO Actions

The primary goal of off-page SEO actions is to increase your website's reputation, relevance, and popularity in the eyes of search engines. Performing off-page SEO is almost like PR because many of the activities and techniques involve building relationships and gaining exposure for your website.

A major benefit of performing off-page SEO actions is that they increase the visibility and credibility of the business – ultimately improving its online presence.

Below are some of the most common and frequently performed off-page SEO actions.

Link Building: Acquiring high-quality backlinks from other websites to your website is a crucial off-page SEO strategy. Search engines consider backlinks as "votes of confidence" for your content, and websites with more authoritative and relevant backlinks tend to rank higher.

Content Marketing: Creating valuable, shareable, and link-worthy content can attract natural backlinks and increase your website's authority.

Social Media Marketing: Leveraging social media platforms to share and promote your content can increase its visibility and attract more traffic. Social signals from platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., may indirectly influence search engine rankings.

Guest Blogging: Writing and publishing articles on other websites (guest blogging) with a link back to your site can help build backlinks and establish your expertise in your industry.

Influencer Outreach: Collaborating with influencers or industry leaders to promote your content can expand your reach and attract more visitors to your website.

Local Listings Management: Submitting your website to relevant online directories and local business listings can improve your website's visibility in local searches.

Forum Participation: Engaging in online forums and communities related to your industry can help establish your authority and drive targeted traffic to your website.

Brand Mentions: Monitoring and managing mentions of your brand across the web can help you capitalize on potential link-building opportunities and manage your online reputation.

Press Releases and Media Coverage: Issuing press releases and gaining media coverage can improve your website's visibility and credibility.

Why SEO is often Poorly Executed

When it comes to SEO, there are a lot of actions that must be performed to help your website rank, and many of those actions require completely different skill sets.

For example: Making technical edits to the backend of your website like minimizing CSS and JavaScript requires a completely different skill set than creating a 2,000 word blog with custom infographics.

Because several skill sets are needed to properly perform SEO, a business would need to have an entire team dedicated to successfully implementing SEO actions. This is why businesses often reach out to agencies for help.

The problem is, many agencies avoid performing all the necessary actions when conducting SEO because it’s either too expensive for them to do it right, or they too lack all the necessary talent. What usually happens is agencies will provide clients with incomplete SEO services while calling them “full-scale SEO packages.”

Some agencies offer web design services which cover some of the on-page SEO actions such as improving site speed and user experience. Other agencies will just offer SEO-friendly content creation which covers some of the on-page SEO actions (e.g. writing blogs and adding more web pages). Neither of these types of agencies cover all the on-page actions or any of the off-page options outside of managing the business listings.

There are some agencies that provide full-scale SEO services. Agencies that offer complete SEO services will typically cost a lot more than those that offer partial SEO service packages. This is because they recognize the breadth of actions that must be performed and the range of talent that’s needed, and they charge accordingly.

This is why many businesses that pay $400-$500 per month for SEO services get poor results. Unfortunately, businesses get what they pay for when it comes to SEO, and those who get swindled into “cheap” SEO services get “cheap” results.

Why There Aren’t SEO Quality Standards

You would think that if there’s so much money involved in SEO that there’d be some type of generally accepted quality standards or a regulatory system by Google. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

The entire practice of SEO is built on the concept of “Gaming the system.” In this case, gaming Google. SEO is not something Google approves of because the practice essentially undermines its famous search algorithm.

The goal of Google’s search algorithm is to show people information based on their search that they will find useful – not to show people information that was strategically added to a website with the pure intention of showing up in people’s searches.

Because Google does not endorse this activity, it doesn’t provide resources or instructions on how to properly “game” its own system. This is why we don’t have quality standards or a regulatory system for SEO.

There’s Still Hope in SEO!

If you read the last two sections, then you might be wondering if SEO is even worth investing in for your business and if there’s any agency you can even trust to perform SEO.

Though you’ll have to answer those questions yourself, we do have resources that can help you arrive at an answer. Please click the links below for more blogs that can help you determine if SEO is right for your business.


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