SEO: What, Why, How

computer screen with SEO data.

What is SEO? Why should you do SEO? And how do you do SEO?

These are burning questions for businesses, brands and site owners just beginning to think about how to improve their website so they can better compete online.

Here I’ll give the what, why and how of SEO. Then you can build a better foundation knowing what SEO is and how to approach it. In this post:

What Is SEO?

SEO, or search engine optimization, aims to improve a website so that it performs better in the search engine results pages, generates earned traffic, and makes more money for the site owner or brand.

SEO works to support search engine guidelines. Ultimately, good SEO helps search engines do their jobs better as they look for quality websites to rank in the search engine results.

To some, SEO seems like Black Magic. Having worked with Google Search for over a decade, what I’ve learned is that first, it’s not Black Magic, and second, if you want long-term success there aren’t any quick magical tricks that an SEO will provide so that your site ranks number one.

–Maile Ohye, Former Googler, YouTube 2017

Of course, there are a great many approaches to SEO. Ultimately you want your website to prove your expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness as outlined in Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.

Site owners can achieve this via several SEO vehicles, many of which are listed in Bruce Clay Inc.’s SEO guide.

Why Should I Do SEO?

Website owners do SEO so they can be competitive in the search results, drive more targeted traffic to their websites and business, and ultimately create more revenue.

Google handles trillions of searches per year and growing, so it’s inevitable that what you’re in the business of is something people are searching for every day.

But take into consideration that there are nearly 6 billion pages indexed on the web — that’s a lot for search engines like Google to sift through to find the best results.

And we know that Page 1 of the search results is really all that matters. (Someone once said the best place to hide a dead body was on Page 2 of the search results.)

Click data by ranking position.
Image source: Backlinko

To have a chance on Page 1, you need to have a quality website that is built for both users and search engines.

If you have more money than brains, you should focus on outbound marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing.

-Guy Kawasaki

And then there are the results of SEO. Given that the organic search channel drives more than 50 percent of traffic to a website on average and up to 64 percent for B2Bs, and is also responsible for up to 59 percent of revenue over other channels, it’s not hard to see why you should do SEO.

Analytics showing organic traffic increase.
Analytics chart showing organic traffic gains on a Bruce Clay Inc. client’s website


Yet many brands aren’t prioritizing it today. In fact, less than 7 percent of the marketing budget in 2019 went to SEO. That presents a huge opportunity for site owners to beat the competition in search.

But the sooner you get in on the game, the better. It’s only a matter of time before more and more businesses begin to optimize their websites. The longer you wait the harder it is to catch up.

How Do You Do SEO?

There are a great many ways to do SEO. But first, you must consider your overall approach, such as a do-it-yourself approach, taking formal SEO training, hiring a consultant or employee, or outsourcing to an agency of experts.

I won’t go into all the mechanics of search engine optimization in this article. Rather, I’m going to talk about the approach to getting SEO done and the various outcomes.


A do-it-yourself SEO approach could involve self-education from many resources on the web. For example, one might take an online training course, subscribe to publications like Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal, follow various forums and blogs, and so on.

Of course, there are a lot of free “guides” available, and our SEO Guide is a good starting place. Many of them are similar in that they offer straightforward 101-level instructions on how you can do SEO.

Keep in mind that while a great many articles written out there can be educational, each website is different when it comes to SEO. While many optimization techniques can be applied to all websites, many SEO strategies are not one-size-fits-all.

The pros of a DIY education is that you can learn at your leisure. The cons? SEO is a full-time job.

So unless you have no other job (like running a business or a marketing department), then it can be truly difficult to get a handle on SEO and apply what you’ve learned to a website when going the DIY route.

Formal SEO Training

SEO classroom training in many ways helps students understand SEO better than an online format can. That’s because in-person training is highly interactive, and students can ask questions related to their own businesses and websites, and receive personalized answers from SEO experts.

So what about online training? We took our classroom training, brought it online, and significantly enhanced it at, a full SEO training environment available as a membership site. Really, up to date training – and much more – check it out! Or try our Bruce Clay Inc. SEO guide.

Depending on the venue, in-person training is often limited to a number of students for a richer experience. Students can interact and network with one another on their journey to learning SEO.

The cons? This type of training does take time away from work, but it usually pays dividends when attendees go back to the office to apply what they’ve learned.

Hiring an SEO Consultant or Employee

One of the best things a site owner or brand can do to advance a website is to hire an SEO professional, whether that’s in-house or a consultant. On the other hand, one of the worst things you can do is hire the wrong SEO professional.

For example, hiring someone with a couple of years of experience means they likely haven’t had enough time in the game to be an expert.

(Even though some say the 10,000 hours to become an expert idea is not valid, you at least need to have enough experience with enough websites to know how search works on different websites, keywords and so on.)

And even if the experience is there, you have to ensure that they are not giving bad SEO advice. In these cases, it may be less productive to hire an inexperienced employee or consultant than an agency where everybody has 10-plus years of experience.

For sage advice on hiring an SEO, see what Google has to say. Their “strongest advice” includes that the hiring business, brand or site owner request that SEOs support their recommendations with a documented statement from Google.

Outsourcing to an SEO Agency

Hiring an SEO agency is a great way to get access to a pool of experts. They can bring decades of experience working with many kinds of businesses or websites (or niche businesses and websites for that matter).

SEO agencies typically have their finger on the pulse of search. With specialized experts in every area of SEO and digital marketing, these professionals can come together to offer a holistic view of SEO and marketing online.

I’ve talked before about how reputation, expertise and authority are all important things to evaluate when hiring a trustworthy SEO company. (These, by the way, happen to be the things that Google cares about in a website).

These characteristics are especially important when SEO practices can help or hurt an entire enterprise, not just a website.

If going the SEO agency route, it’s important to ask a specific set of questions, which I outlined in the article linked in this section.

SEO: The Bottom Line

In sum, SEO aims to improve a website so it performs better in the search engine results pages and generates earned traffic to the website so that the site owner or brand makes more money.

Thus, website owners do SEO so they can be competitive in the search results, drive more targeted traffic, and ultimately more revenue.

There are many ways to do SEO. You can choose a DIY approach, hiring a consultant or employee, or outsourcing to an agency. Each of those options will produce unique outcomes for your SEO strategy.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help you increase your organic traffic and revenue, contact us for a no-obligation quote.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (12)
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12 Replies to “SEO: What, Why, How”

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Yes, truly said, SEO is a lifeline for a business now!


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