What Is Search Engine Optimization in Digital Marketing?

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Written By Robert Dunford
I am a Marketing Consulting in the Great Toronto Area with over 25 years experience in building and implementing marketing plans for small business.

Digital marketing is a broad term that encompasses different types of online advertising, such as Facebook advertising, other social media advertising, content marketing, email marketing, and so much more. In this day and age, brands and marketing campaigns focus hard on their online presence because people spend a lot of their time on the internet, whether for work or leisure.

Search engine optimization or SEO is a practice that helps brands generate quality content that will satisfy their potential customers. At the same time, SEO is a powerful digital marketing tool that increases site traffic and positions the site high in search engine rankings, if done properly.

In short, SEO is a process that you shouldn’t overlook when you’re doing your digital marketing planning.

The Importance of SEO

When you create and upload a website for your brand, product, or service, you want people to find it. Gathering as many site visitors as possible is the purpose of basically any website, regardless of its content, especially if it’s part of a broader digital marketing strategy.

For this to happen, your site needs to be recognized and indexed by search engines, and it also needs to be positioned relatively high in the search rankings. This will allow potential visitors to find it when they search for terms or questions they need answers to.

You want to aim for the first page of search results. An incredible 92% of users click on a result from the first page of their Google search. If your site lands on page 2 or 3, you will get significantly less traffic. This is why a solid SEO strategy is crucial to driving organic traffic towards your site and increasing your ranking factor.

White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO

Two terms you will often encounter in SEO talk are white hat SEO and black hat SEO.

White hat SEO is what Google considers ‘good SEO.’ It employs practices that are approved by search engine guidelines and follow the rules, so to speak. The goal of white hat SEO is to provide useful content to site visitors.

Black hat SEO is the other side of the coin. It is a set of SEO techniques that do have an effect, but that bring about the risk of your site getting penalized and/or removed from search results altogether. These are not in accordance with Google Guidelines and thus Google will be all too happy to ban your site from its results pages if it catches you using these unfavorable methods to boost traffic.

How SEO Works

At first glance, the concept of SEO in digital marketing may seem abstract and convoluted. At its core, SEO is a set of rules or guidelines that you need to follow regarding your site and content to maximize your chances of showing up on the first page of search results.

There are a few aspects of SEO that you should familiarize yourself with. You also need to learn how guidelines work together to improve user experience (UX) and increase your site’s rank in search results.

  • Keywords

Before you dive into actually organizing and restructuring your site’s content, it would be best to do a bit of keyword research. Keywords are just that, words and phrases that you should include in your content to help users find it.

To choose effective keywords, you must keep your target audience in mind. Think about what questions they would ask if they wanted to find your content. Think about the terms they would search for online. Use keyword tools to help you create your initial list of keywords.

Beware of keyword stuffing! If you’ve ever heard the SEO advice that you should include a certain keyword X number times in a single page – you’ve been told wrong. Keyword stuffing, or purposefully increasing keyword density, lessens the value of content and ultimately makes your site rank lower in SERPs than it would if you used keywords organically. 

  • On-page SEO

On-page SEO is the practice of creating content that specifically answers a user’s questions. Use the keywords you discovered in your research to craft pages that will help searchers. Keep in mind that the goal of your content should never be to rank high in SERPs. It should be to provide value and useful information to your visitors.

When it comes to this type of SEO, avoid creating a single page for each keyword if you don’t have enough content for it. (Avoid thin content, in other words.) Furthermore, avoid duplicate content. While Google doesn’t penalize duplicate versions of websites, it does filter them out from search results. This means that copying already-published good content and directly pasting it on your site will ultimately get you nowhere.

  • Technical SEO

Now that you have good content, you need to ensure that your website is easily accessible to search engines. Technical SEO includes a whole host of guidelines related to website design, responsiveness, loading speed, the quality of the code, and more.

Special attention should be paid to aspects like the meta tag and meta description. These may not have as much effect as they had a couple of years ago, but they still matter. And you should optimize them accordingly.

Moreover, don’t forget mobile searches! A considerable number of users (92%!) browses the web on their mobile devices. A site that is optimized for mobile will rank a lot higher than one that isn’t.

  • Link Building

Having good content and a site that search engines will easily index doesn’t guarantee a high search engine ranking. One of the essential success factors in SEO is link building or the process of including links in your content. High-quality sites tend to link to other high-quality sites – if a page has a large number of organic links, it’s a signal to search engines that it’s important.

Links can be divided into internal links, those that lead to other pages on your site, and external links, those that lead to other sites. You need a good balance of both in your content to build your site’s authority and increase your ranking.

  • Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO is centered around building backlinks, meaning links from other sites back to yours. These should be from sites of high authority (that are popular and trustworthy), closely related to the content they’re linking too, and with appropriate anchor text.

Varied anchor texts – words and phrases the link is attached to – are a mark of good SEO. To satisfy search engine algorithms, avoid spamming the same phrase as anchor text. Go for relevance instead!  

  • Analytics

It is important to understand that SEO is not a one-time action. You do your research and optimize your site, but you also have to follow the results of this optimization. Through web analytics, you need to keep track of various factors to ensure that your SEO implementation is yielding the desired results.

Analysis tools like Google Analytics will help you keep an eye on your bounce rates (when a searcher clicked on your page and then left without going deeper into your site), search traffic, conversion rate, time spent on your page, how many pages the searcher visits, and so on.

If you start getting undesired metrics at any point, it’s time to change your SEO strategy.

Here are some more useful tips on how to generate SEO-friendly content.


Remember that SEO is just one part of your combined online marketing efforts. If you want your site to drive more traffic, be one of the top results in an organic search, and have search engine algorithms working in its favor, you will need to make the most out of the SEO tools at your disposal.

It wouldn’t take long to conduct a keyword research and perform an SEO audit to see what can be done to improve your site’s standing in the search results. This can be anything from adjusting your site’s design and structure and speeding up its loading time to optimizing your content to building stronger links with other trustworthy sites.

At the end of the day, all of this will grow your business and hopefully lead to more satisfied customers in the future.

If you want to make your webpage draw the attention of searchers and up your search engine marketing game, feel free to contact me. I would be more than happy to aid in boosting your traffic and help you in this optimization process.

Rob Dunford is a Marketing Consultant in the Great Toronto Area with over 25 years of experience in implementing marketing plans for small businesses.

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