For beginners to SEO the above definition may sound complicated.
In simpler terms, Search Engine Optimization is a way to improve your website so that it will appear closer to the top positions in the search results of Google, Yahoo, Bing or other search engines.
When you perform a search on Google the order by which the returning results are displayed, is based on complex algorithms.
These algorithms (also known as search engine ranking factors) take a number of factors into account before they decide which web page will be shown in the first place, second place, etc.
Optimizing your website for search engines will give you an advantage over non-optimized sites and you increase your chances to rank higher.
What are the main stages of the Search Engine Optimization process?
As I mentioned above, SEO is not a static process but rather a framework with rules and processes.
For simplicity though, SEO can be broken down into 3 main types:
Technical SEO: With technical SEO you can ensure that search engines can crawl and index your website without any issues.
On-site SEO: Rules to apply on your site and content to make it search engine friendly.
Off-site SEO: Ways to promote your website or blog so that it can rank higher in search results.
The first stage in the SEO process is called technical SEO. As the name implies, technical SEO has nothing to do with the actual content of a website or with website promotion methods.
It has to do with settings you need to configure to make the job of search engine crawlers easier. Usually, once you get your technical SEO correct, you may not have to deal with it again.
On the other hand, if you have problems with crawling and indexing, it can negatively impact your rankings.
The second stage is On-Page SEO. On-Page SEO has to do primarily with the content and other elements found on a page.
Unlike technical and off-page SEO, the main focus of on-page SEO is to provide search engine crawlers enough signals so that they can understand the meaning and context of your content.
Remember that search engines don’t read a page like a human so they are looking for signals to figure out what a page is all about.
It is at this stage that you will deal with website structure, SEO keywords, title optimizations, headings, internal links, image SEO, structured data markup and other techniques that can send the right signals to search engines.
If followed correctly, on-page SEO will also improve the usability and credibility of a website or blog.
Note that content optimization is part of on-page SEO but sometimes this is referred to as Content SEO.
The third stage is Off-Page SEO.
Besides the changes you can do to your website (on-site SEO) so that it ranks higher in the SERPs, the other way to improve your website’s ranking position is by using off-site SEO techniques.
Off-site SEO is generally known as link building but I prefer to use the term web site promotion since a proper way to promote a website involves many more methods and techniques than building links.