A Comprehensive Intro to SEO

Learn all about search engine optimization in our comprehensive SEO guide. We’ll share tips and techniques and answer some common questions.

Aerial view of highway traffic

The term “search engine optimization” gets thrown around a lot in conversations about digital marketing. But many people still don’t understand what it means or why it’s so valuable.

So let us break it down (and answer some other common questions about SEO while we’re at it).

What Is SEO?

SEO is the practice of making your web pages more appealing to the algorithms that rank search engine results.

In simpler terms, it’s a way to get your website to rank higher on Google (or Bing or one of the other engines).

When you do it right, SEO can get your website to appear at or close to the top of the search engine results page (SERP) when your target audience searches for keywords related to your business.

For instance, let’s say you own an insurance company. SEO is a way to get your page at the top of the search results when people search for a term like “auto insurance” or “life insurance.”

Why is this so valuable? 

A few reasons:

1. SEO Drives Sales

Ranking for the right keywords can attract more qualified leads to your site, leading to increased conversions.

Remember, 63% of all shopping begins online, even when the purchase happens in store. SEO gives you a chance to capture prospective customers’ attention while they’re researching products and services.

2. SEO Increases Brand Awareness

Search visibility is brand visibility.

If your company’s website appears in Google search results whenever someone searches for terms related to your industry, they’re going to start to know your name.

SEO can turn your brand into a brand that people know.

3. SEO Builds Trust

Your website can become the place that people go to for information about your industry.

Blogging, specifically, can help you to establish yourself as an industry expert. When customers see that you know what you’re talking about, they’re far more likely to trust your products and services.

Looking for a deeper breakdown of how SEO works? Pat breaks down the principles of SEO here.

Wait, Can’t I Just Pay for Sponsored Ads If I Want to Be at the Top of Google?

Yes, sponsored ads will place you right at the top of Google. And that placement can drive some clicks to your site.

But there’s a problem with that strategy:

Those clicks will stop as soon as you stop paying for ads.

SEO is a long-term investment in your website. If you ever decide to stop putting resources toward it, you’ll still have all of the content you created, and that content will continue to drive organic traffic to your site.

That said, certain industries shouldn’t invest in SEO. Google Ads and other forms of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be a more effective strategy for some businesses. You can read more about how and when to use PPC ads in our SEO vs. PPC article.

How Do You “Do” SEO?

There’s a lot that goes into improving your site’s search visibility, but here’s the main goal:

You have to show search engines that your page is the best page about that topic.

There are a lot of different tactics that can help you achieve that, but all of those tactics fall into one of three categories:

  1. On-page SEO
  2. Off-page SEO
  3. Technical SEO

Keep reading to learn about each of these categories. We’ll discuss some of the tasks that fall under each umbrella and when you should focus on one type of SEO over the others.

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO is about optimizing the front and back ends of a page. So when we talk about SEO keywords, that falls under this category.

Other forms of on-page optimization include:

  • Publishing high-quality, relevant content that boosts engagement on your site
  • Including brief, concise answers to all commonly searched questions to increase your chances of earning Featured Snippets on Google
  • Writing title tags and meta descriptions that help search engines understand what the content is about (and to make your listings more appealing to human searchers, which drives up the clickthrough rate, or CTR)
  • Including specific keywords (both target and long-tail keywords) in your page’s headers, body text, meta tags, and URL structure
  • Embedding photos, videos, and graphics to make each page inviting and engaging
  • Building internal links to help search engine “crawlers” to navigate your site and understand the relationship between pages

Blog content is a crucial component of a solid on-page SEO strategy, especially for growing businesses. Each blog post you publish will rank for different keywords and create new ways for audiences to find your website.

proven process cta

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO primarily revolves around link building, or building backlinks to your website.

Backlinks are important because they show search engines that other websites trust your website. This adds value to your site and can help you rank higher.

Think of a backlink as the world’s shortest letter of recommendation — when a site links to yours, it’s essentially saying, “Here, this is a good page, check it out.”

When search engines see those recommendations, it shows them they can trust your site more.

There are a lot of ways to build backlinks. For instance, you can write a guest blog for someone else’s site or respond to journalists’ questions on a platform like Connectively.

There are even services — like our sister company, Quoteful — that can help you to get links from high-profile publications.

But, the most efficient way to earn links is to publish great content on your website that people want to link to on their own. While it’s smart to put some resources toward link outreach, a good blog article on your website can serve as a link-generating machine.

Need help building links to improve your keyword rankings? Let’s talk about building a strategy!

Technical SEO

Technical SEO is about making sure that search engines can find your website and visitors can actually use it. Otherwise, no one will even see your content!

Here are some of the tasks that fall under the technical SEO umbrella:

  • Installing plugins to compress images, cache files, and otherwise improve page loading speeds
  • Emphasizing mobile-friendliness to optimize the user experience on mobile devices (this is a ranking factor!)
  • Building an intuitive site architecture to help both search engines and users to navigate it
  • Optimizing your site’s security using an HTTPS domain and other resources
  • Managing site redirects and minimizing redirect chains (more on this in our Domain Migration SEO Guide)

Every search marketing campaign requires at least some attention to technical SEO. However, it is most important for businesses that already rank high for their target keywords and need a little push to outrank their competitors.

Even a slight increase in Core Web Vitals scores could push you from ranking in the second spot to the top spot on Google!

Related: SEO vs. Content Marketing

What About Local SEO?

Local SEO is a type of SEO that can help brick-and-mortar businesses (think restaurants, retail stores, medical practices, and law firms) to outrank their local competitors.

Whereas the primary goal of “national” SEO is to drive qualified traffic to a company’s website, the goal of local SEO is to increase a company’s foot traffic and in-person sales.

Many businesses invest in both national and local SEO services. For instance, a retail chain with a large ecommerce operation could benefit from both.

Want your business to be more visible for local searches? We have some tips:

  • Optimize your website for local searches: Your website’s key pages (homepage, service pages, etc.) should target keywords like “SEO agency in Denver” rather than just “SEO agency” to help search engines your business and where it’s located.
  • Blog about local topics: As we discussed above, blogging is a great way to attract organic search traffic and establish yourself as an expert on a particular topic. Writing about local subjects will help you show search engines that you’re an expert on your region.
  • Claim (and complete) your Google Business Profile: This is the listing that appears in the SERP when someone Googles your company (the one with photos, reviews, a map, etc.). Fill out your GB profile — and double-check the info — so potential customers can view your contact information and hours.
  • Encourage your happy customers to leave reviews — Reviews are a lot like backlinks in that they lend credibility to your website and can help to improve your search visibility. Ask your customers to leave a review on your Google Business profile or one of the popular review sites (i.e., Yelp) to boost your site’s reputation.
  • Add schema markup to your website: Schema markup is a way to give search engines even more information about your business. It will help them to understand that your website, social media profiles, and brick-and-mortar stores are all related to the same company.

While local SEO tactics differ slightly from more general SEO practices, the goal is still the same: to show search engines that you have the most valuable pages about a specific topic.

Whether you own a construction company or a taco truck, the key is to demonstrate that you’re the foremost expert on insurance in your city.

How Is SEO Performance Measured?

It varies depending on the goals of the business. Some companies only care about organic traffic, while others couldn’t care less; they just want to see sales.

As a baseline, most agencies track the following:

  • Organic sessions: How much website traffic is coming through search engines?
  • Organic goal completions: How many people buy/subscribe/take some other action once they’re on our site?
  • Organic revenue: How much money is organic traffic generating?
  • Keyword rankings: Which keywords are we ranking for (and where are we ranking for our target keywords)?
  • Backlinks/referring domains: How many people are sharing our content on their own sites?

However, different campaigns have different benchmarks. You can read about some other popular SEO benchmark metrics here.

See also: Understanding the ROI of SEO

Do I Need to Hire an SEO Agency, or Can I Do It Myself?

You can certainly manage your SEO in-house. However, many businesses hire it out instead because SEO takes a lot of time.

Hiring an agency gives you access to a full content team to handle every step of the SEO process.

Here’s what we do for clients that work with us:

  • We audit your site for technical SEO issues.
  • We conduct keyword research to identify the best opportunities for achieving higher rankings.
  • We build and implement an SEO strategy that lays the foundation for growth.
  • We add relevant keywords to your site’s meta titles and descriptions to help drive more traffic to your homepage and service pages.
  • We develop content for your site and publish it on your blog.
  • We build backlinks to boost your content’s visibility.
  • We manage your content to address any technical issues that arise after publication.
  • We give you access to our Growth Hub, which helps us to manage our content approval process.
  • We hold monthly reporting calls to update you on your website’s growth.

If you have some SEO knowledge and only want a small amount of content, then you might want to manage your own campaign. However, if you want an expert partner to help you achieve big growth over time, it could be in your best interest to hire an SEO agency.

numbers seo cta

Doing It Yourself? Avoid These Common SEO Mistakes

You can waste a lot of time trying to build rankings if you don’t approach it the right way. If you’re dead set on doing your own SEO, make sure to avoid the following:

Keyword Stuffing

Using your target keywords too often throughout content can actually get you penalized.

Not to mention, it makes for a lousy reading experience, which will send your visitors running away and drive your engagement rate down in the process (which will indirectly tank your rankings).

“Cannibalizing” Keywords

Keyword cannibalization occurs when multiple pages on a website rank for the same keywords.

It’s a problem because search engines don’t know which page to rank — and they usually only rank one — so you might have a blog article ranking for the term “digital marketing company” when you should really have your homepage or a service page ranking for that article.

Not Using the Right Tools

You can certainly improve your search engine rankings without using expensive keyword research tools, but using tools can help you do it much faster and more efficiently.

Luckily, there are a lot of helpful tools that happen to be free.. For instance, Google Search Console costs nothing and can help you to get your pages indexed almost instantly. It — along with Google Analytics — are great tools for tracking your content’s performance over time, too.

Check out this list of DIY SEO tools if you want some help improving your website visibility.

Ignoring Technical SEO

SEO isn’t just about writing content and building backlinks; you need a solid technical foundation to ensure that your website is crawlable and user friendly.

If you want to improve your site visibility, you need to spend some time on technical SEO.

Prefer to Hire an SEO Agency? Here’s How to Choose the Right Agency Partner

Choosing an agency can be very hard because there are so many of us to choose from.

So before you hire an agency, make sure to do the following:

  1. Ask for evidence of success (especially case studies that illustrate how they’ve helped other customers)
  2. Ask what their SEO process entails and how much you can be involved (or not be involved if you don’t want to)
  3. Ask about their specialties. Look to hire an agency with a strong background in your industry
  4. Ask about their expectations and the results you can expect to see in the short and long term
  5. Ask how much time they need from you — some agencies want a lot of your input, while others don’t need it.

We’ve compiled this list of questions to ask potential SEO partners before you hire them. I’d recommend using that when vetting agencies; it can save you a lot of time and money!

… and if You Want to Work With an Expert Agency That Produces Consistent Results, Call Us

SEO is about much more than just finding keywords and stuffing those keywords into a blog post. It’s a comprehensive process that involves dozens of different tactics.

You need an SEO partner who can assess your company’s goals and build a custom strategy to help you grow — and that could be Intergrowth.

Thinking about investing in SEO? Give us a call. We could be the perfect partner to help you increase your search visibility and grow your business.

Other Similar Articles

The New Marketing Frontier: How to Build a Brand in the AI Era

Paid search, paid social, search engine optimization, and affiliate marketing. For the past 15 years, these four marketing tactics paired with sales outreach to dominate customer acquisition. How? They focused on making their target customer’s internet experience as convenient as possible. Each tactic drove results by integrating relevant, high-quality information or experiences with everyday Internet […]

61 Mind-Bottling SEO Stats for 2024

Yes, we did just say mind-bottling. While many believe that SEO is dead (enough that 250 people search for that exact phrase every month), the reality is that it’s still very much alive, and we have the statistics to prove it. Sure, Google has made it very difficult to cheat the system, but that’s forced […]

Google Is Changing (and so Is Ecommerce SEO)

Google is going through some big changes right now, and they’re going to have a huge impact on the way we do ecommerce SEO. We’re seeing lots of different features on the search results pages (and not just the AI-generated results from SGE) We’re also seeing a lot of the low-quality, cookie-cutter blog articles that […]

Post Icon
A Comprehensive Intro to SEO