What is search engine optimization (SEO)?

At the moment, everything happens online. So, perhaps, you’ve decided to quickly set up a website for your business or organization. Or, you’ve decided to revive your existing website. When looking for tips you keep encountering this term “SEO”. What does it stand for? Here, we’ll explain what it means and how to approach it best!

What is SEO?

SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimization’. It’s the practice of optimizing your web pages to make them reach a high position in the search results of Google or other search engines. SEO focuses on improving the rankings in the organic – aka non paid – search results. If you have a website and you want to get more traffic, it should be part of your marketing efforts.

Want to learn all about SEO? Get the FREE SEO for beginners training! You’ll learn the basics of SEO, so you can start optimizing your own website! Check out all our free and premium SEO training subscriptions here.

Google’s algorithm

The rankings of these search results are determined by Google’s algorithm. Although Google’s algorithm remains secret, years of experience in SEO have resulted in a pretty good idea about the important ranking factors. In our view, the factors in Google’s algorithm can be divided into two categories:

On-page SEO factors

The ranking of your website is partly decided by on-page factors. On-page SEO factors are all those things you can influence from within your actual website. These factors include technical aspects (e.g. the quality of your code and site speed) and content-related aspects, like the structure of your website or the quality of the copy on your website. These are all crucial on-page SEO factors.

Off-page SEO factors

In addition to on-page SEO factors, there are off-page SEO factors. These factors include links from other websites, social media attention, and other marketing activities outside your own website. These off-page SEO factors can be rather difficult to influence. The most important of these off-page factors is the number and quality of links pointing towards your site. The more quality, relevant sites that link to your website, the higher your position in Google will be.

Read more: Link building from a holistic SEO perspective »

Another off-page factor is your competition relating to the niche of your particular business. In some niches, it is much harder to rank than in others. The competitiveness of your market therefore also has a major influence on your chances of ranking.

Holistic SEO

At Yoast, we practice what we call ‘holistic SEO‘. This means that your primary goal should be to build and maintain the best possible website. Don’t try to fool Google, but use a sustainable long-term strategy. Ranking will come automatically if your website is of extremely high quality. Google wants to get its users to the right place, as its mission is to index all the world’s online information and make it universally accessible and useful.

In addition to this, Google, of course, wants to make money. To achieve this, they have to make sure people keep using Google. This means that they’ll have to show people results they are looking for. So if your website is the best in your market, Google wants it to rank high in the results.

Permanently ranking well in Google demands an extensive SEO strategy focused on every aspect of your website and its marketing. The technical side, the User eXperience (UX), the content on your website: all need to be top-notch. To keep ranking well in Google, you should develop – what we call – a holistic SEO approach.

How does Yoast help you?

One of the main advantages of the Yoast SEO plugin is that it helps you create high-ranking content. Our SEO and readability analysis gives you detailed suggestions to create copy humans and search engines enjoy! Yoast SEO Premium also helps you optimize your content for synonyms and related keywords, and on top of that, you can boost your site structure with our internal linking suggestions. And there’s more! Check out all handy features of Yoast SEO Premium here.

Want to take a deep-dive in SEO? Check out online SEO training courses: we’ll teach you vital SEO skills you can apply immediately. We offer a free as well as premium training subscriptions. Find out how to outrank your competition!


SEO is the practice of optimizing websites to make them reach a high position in Google’s – or another search engine’s – search results. At Yoast, we believe that holistic SEO is the best way to rank your website because you focus on making every aspect of your site awesome. Don’t use any black-hat SEO tricks, because eventually, this will have negative consequences for your rankings. Instead, practice sustainable SEO, with your user in mind, and you will benefit in the long run.

Keep reading: How to rank high in Google »

9 Responses to What is search engine optimization (SEO)?

  1. Tectantra
    Tectantra  • 1 year ago

    Thanx for this blog. It refreshed the basics again in my mind about SEO.
    You are right that we should have a high-quality website and then focus on the SEO strategy.
    Please provide a more detail blog with a deep understanding of Google algorithms.

  2. Hannah Cuthbertson
    Hannah Cuthbertson  • 1 year ago

    SEO is not about the search engine but it is SEO practices that improve user experiences and website usability.

  3. Setup Your Accounts
    Setup Your Accounts  • 1 year ago

    how to increase my on page readability score. there some of error remains as usual…kindly help me out

  4. Propworld Realty
    Propworld Realty  • 1 year ago

    This post is complete package of seo. I want to ask one thing that which is more important whether on page seo or off page seo. And One thing more I’m using Yoast plugin for my website but since 30 days my website is not caching.

  5. esupersale
    esupersale  • 1 year ago

    Thank you for giving me proper information about SEO.

  6. Himrealtor
    Himrealtor  • 1 year ago

    Yoast SEO plugin is one of the best option to improve website ranking & traffic.

    • Iris Guelen
      Iris Guelen  • 1 year ago

      Thanks, that’s great to hear! :)

  7. mothergeek
    mothergeek  • 1 year ago

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m off to do the online SEO training courses. Fingers crossed it helps :)

    • Iris Guelen
      Iris Guelen  • 1 year ago

      You’re very welcome! And, good luck with the courses!