What is SEO? (Search Engine Optimization)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of creating and optimizing relevant, authoritative content in a way that helps visitors (and search engine crawlers) find answers to their key questions. The goal of performing SEO on any given web page is to improve the quality of your content, so search engines will choose to list your content within search results. This will increase the quantity of traffic that your web content receives from search engines each day.

What Does Optimization Mean?

We all know that web content is for people. If you serve great content to your customers and they are happy, you will do well. At the same time, there are additional things you can do to optimize your content for search engines. Each search engine vendor prioritizes different characteristics of websites and web content, but by using top SEO tips—including following best practices for writing for the web, identifying and using keyword phrases strategically, and setting up your website's technical implementation following established guidelines—you can improve your search engine optimization regardless of search engine provider.

If you are writing new content, you can optimize as you write. You can also plan for, track, and optimize existing content that isn't currently ranking as highly as you would like.

How Does SEO Work?

Search engine crawlers (also called bots) comb through all the content they can find on the internet. They do so by following internal links within websites and links across different websites. The bots look at the content on each of your pages (including the URL, title tag, headings, links, and more) to get an understanding of what each page is about. The search engine provider takes all of this information to build what is called an index.

What Factors into SEO Rankings?

There is a lot that factors into search engine rankings, but content is king. High-quality, authoritative content will make your visitors happy and attract links from other websites. Second to content are incoming links. The more websites who link to your content, the more Google and other search engines will trust and value your content and website.

Along with content and links, here are some other important SEO factors:

  • number of incoming links
  • quality of incoming links
  • keyword phrase usage
  • page loading speed
  • user experience
  • HTML and schema markup
  • domain authority
  • social media signals
  • mobile optimization
  • key usage metrics

All of these factors, combined with the search engine's understanding of your content, are used to turn an index into rankings for the different searches (also known as queries) performed within search engines.

Who Can Affect SEO?

Following content and technical best practices will make it easier for search engines to crawl, index, and understand your content. Many different people can affect search engine optimization, including:

  1. Content creators
    1. Writers
    2. Photographers
    3. Videographers
  2. Technical staff
    1. Front end
    2. Back end
    3. Infrastructure

It is important for each team member to learn more about and take into account search engine optimization as they perform their specific tasks related to creating and maintaining your website. Technical staff can learn more about technical SEO.

How To Get Search Engine Traffic

You can work to increase your search engine traffic by creating and optimizing content-rich, authoritative content about the topics you are knowledgeable in and want to rank well for. Read our top tips for search engine optimization as well as our tips for writing for the web to learn more. You can also reference Google's SEO Start Guide.

Keyword Phrase Competition

Search engine rankings are highly competitive. It is easier to rank for keyword phrases that are more specific, such as "copper mines in upper Michigan" or "mechanical engineering faculty using nanotechnology" as compared to something more broad, such as "copper mines" or "mechanical engineering." However, more specific phrases are searched for less frequently. They represent an easier entry into search engine rankings, but with a smaller potential for traffic growth.

Identifying Keyword Opportunities

Creating great content alone does not guarantee search engine traffic. Ask yourself: Would anyone actually search for this content? Many keyword phrase research and volume estimation tools exists from companies such as Moz, SEMrush, Ahrefs, and more.

Additional SEO Resources

Are you passionate about getting better at search engine optimization? Use the following additional resources to learn more about what search engine optimization is.


Michigan Tech Websites

Are you interested in researching keyword opportunities and creating a strategy for search engine optimization on your Omni CMS website? Contact the Digital Strategy and Services team (cmshelp@mtu.edu) within University Marketing and Communications. We are excited to work with you!