What is search engine optimization?

Search Engine Optimization

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

by Michael Jones | May 18, 2020

The goal of any search engine, in its simplest form, is to retrieve the results you find useful when you search for something. If you search Google for “Atropos”, you expect not just to find results pertaining to the eldest of the Three Fates, you expect to find the most useful results pertaining to the eldest of the Three Fates. That’s the search engine’s goal.

As a company, your goal is different than Google’s: you want the search engine to present specifically your results! You want the search engine to think your page selling Atropos figurines is the most useful result. That is the goal of search engine optimization: making search engines think your site is the best site whatever you want customers to find.

Decades ago, this was as simple as stuffing your pages with a specific keyword, and if your page had more of that word, the search engine would reward you with visitors – even if the word was invisible, or used hundreds of times in a row. Many people think that’s how SEO still works, but Google didn’t become Google by being stupid.

Today, the best methods for SEO appear very complex, but at their heart they’re very simple: you just be the most useful result. Gone are the days of lying to Google: today we can tell the truth – but that means telling the truth, being genuinely useful to your customers. This is done in a million ways, large and small.

SEO can be roughly split into three categories: there’s “on-page SEO”, which is the parts of your site that the user sees; there’s “technical SEO”, which is the parts of your site that only the search engine sees; and there’s “off-page SEO”, which is the parts of other people’s sites that relate to yours.

On-Page SEO symbol

On-page SEO means having engaging, useful content that’s presented in an attractive, readable way. Long-form blogs people spend time reading, videos that people will watch to the end, sites that make people keep clicking with interest for a long period of time, and then buy something: these are exactly the signals Google is looking for. 

Technical SEO symbol

Technical SEO means organizing and correctly setting dozens or hundreds of invisible tags on all your pages, links, and images. It means having a server that provides pages to users quickly – users cannot abide slow websites! Google is looking for pages that load properly on mobile devices, that have strong security, that are organized with schema.

Off Site SEO symbol

Off-site SEO might be the most important, but the most difficult: this is producing content other people will want to share, forming relationships with other companies to trade links and mentions, essentially having reputable sites vouch for you by saying that your content is useful content. This is a very strong signal to Google that this is content people will want.

Search engine optimization can be a lot to manage. So many moving parts, across so many disciplines: writing, programming, data schema design, social networking. SEO has it all, and you can’t only do part of it, because your competition will be doing all of it.


If this sounds like too much, thank the Fates there’s another option. Vertical Compass can learn all about Atropos, and the figurine market, and what content and search terms and communities matter, not just in general, but specifically for your industry. We are experts at making engaging content that people will read to the very end: after all, you found this page, and you read it to the end, right?