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What Is SEO: The Science Of Website Ranking

what is seo

If you have been in the realm of internet marketing for any period of time, you hear the same things over and over. SEO is one of the most used terms in marketing, and one of the most important concepts for those who want to sell stuff online through websites. Everyone and their grandma is an SEO expert it seems and they will all give you their opinions on how to do SEO. What is SEO? Glad you asked!

There are countless forms of internet marketing. Social media marketing, affiliate marketing, network marketing, email marketing, local business marketing, and many more. Search engine marketing is useful, because it can help with every type of marketing. It is essentially at the core of everything we do as internet marketers. Mastering SEO is not only a useful skill, it is downright essential and can be extremely lucrative if done right.

The Question Remains: What Is SEO?

According to Wikipedia: Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine‘s unpaid results—often referred to as “natural,” “organic,” or “earned” results. Hold your horses there, Scotty! That is a 747 right there! In other words, SEO is the effective and deliberate manipulation of website ranking through the use of various techniques and strategies. I think its safe to say no one would ever categorize SEO as easy. There are SEO experts that dedicate their lives to the pursuit of understanding the search engines and the algorithms they employ.

Just like meteorology is the study of weather and attempts to forecast it, SEO is the study of the search engines and attempts to predict how a website will rank in accordance with set rules and variables. I think that is why I am so drawn to SEO. As a meteorologist myself, I can appreciate the complexity and challenge it gives me to dissect and analyze proper search engine optimization. In order to understand and apply proper SEO strategy, it is important to go back to the source and understand search engines.

What is SEO And The Best Search Engine?

Do you remember Excite, Lycos, Ask Jeeves, AltaVista, Dogpile, or HotBot? Some of them you may have even used back in the 90’s (Lycos was my favorite in the late 90’s simply because I thought it was cool that a dog was finding me useful information). In today’s world of search engines, there is just as much competition, but fewer search engines that people use more than a certain search engine we obsess over as SEO engine market share

If the word “Google” comes to mind with flashing lights and a disembodied voice shouting “DUH!” – then you are not alone. Google has been extremely dominant since the early 2000’s. In fact, they command a market share of nearly 70% as of September, 2015.

This means that it is pointless to dedicate all your time to ranking on AOL or Baidu. If you want to really get loads of visitors and make good money as an affiliate marketer, Google is the gateway to riches. It helps that they own Youtube as well, as if we needed additional incentive to target them.

It just so happens that the majority of the material out there on SEO is intended to educate you on the best SEO strategies pertaining to Google. I still find a decent volume of traffic comes from Yahoo and Bing, even though ranking on Google is my primary objective. The same will hold true for you, so don’t lose sleep over trying to rank on everything. If you do the right things, it will happen.

What Are The Primary Ranking Factors for SEO?

A wise woman once said, “Google loves you when everyone else loves you first.” Kind of sounds like pushing the cart before the horse, doesn’t it? It’s like trying to get that first job after college. Everyone wants a candidate with experience, but you just graduated with your degree and are looking to gain that experience. It seems unfair! That’s when you are basically introduced to the idea that the world doesn’t work the way it does to help you, but to help itself. Google is there to help itself. It will only help you when you have proven your presence will help it. Are you ready to prove yourself in the eyes of Google? Great! Take a look at the graphic below. It’s just PERFECT!

Google ranking factors

I could find nothing better than the graphic above to illustrate website ranking. I must give credit to Search Engine Land for producing this fine explanation. Do you remember how I said SEO is like science? If this picture above doesn’t prove that, I don’t know what does! After all, the ingredients above can form a chemical reaction. The question is, will your website explode into oblivion? Or will it explode in popularity? The proper application of the factors above will decide that for you.

What Is SEO: A Closer Look At The SEO Success Factors

If the periodic table of SEO success factors leaves you scratching your head in bewilderment, I can certainly see why. There are a lot of elements that go into ranking a website (you don’t say!). Let’s take a moment or two to break it down in easy to digest pieces.

The Two Main Branches Of SEO

In order to optimize a website for the search engines, one must think in terms of two branches of thought:  the SEO on the page or site you are tying to rank, and the way your site is seen and perceived externally. These are commonly referred to as onpage and offpage SEO. There are three main factors for onpage SEO and four factors for offpage SEO.

The three main factors for onpage SEO are:SEO Success factors

  1. Content
  2. Architecture
  3. HTML

The four main factors for offpage SEO are:

  1. Trust
  2. Links
  3. Personal
  4. Social

These factors combine together to create a rather complex algorithm that SEO experts spend their careers debating over. It is true the Google updates change the importance of these factors quite frequently, but they are still important to be aware of. That does not mean to say there are other factors that we may not even be aware of! Google is sneaky like that!

Let’s dive a little deeper and take a look at the various elements associated with each factor (as shown above). Any elements with the V carry a negative weight and result in a penalty for your site.

Onpage SEO Factors:


  • (Cq) Quality Are pages well written with high quality content people are drawn to?
  • (Cr) Research – Have you researched the keywords people may use to find your content?
  • (Cw) Words – Does your content use the words you help they’ll be found for?
  • (Cf) Fresh – Is your content updated regularly?
  • (Cv) Vertical – Do you use varying forms of media (i.e. images, video, news, etc.) in your content?
  • (Ca) Answers – Does your content answer questions posed in search results?
  • (Vt) Thin – Is your content thin or shallow, lacking any real value?onpage SEO


  • (Ac) Crawl – Can the robots easily crawl your site?
  • (Ad) Duplicate – Does your site handle duplicate content well?
  • (Am) Mobile – Is your site mobile-optimized?
  • (As) Speed – Does your site load quickly?
  • (Au) URLs – Do URLs contain keywords your pages are trying to rank for?
  • (Ah) HTTPS – Does the site use HTTPS for the security of visitors?
  • (Vc) Cloaking – Do you show search engines different pages than humans?


  • (Ht) Titles – Do the HTML title tags contain the relevant keywords?
  • (Hd) Description –  Does the HTML meta description contain the relevant keywords?
  • (Hs) Structure – Do pages use structured data to enhance the listings?
  • (Hh) Header – Do headlines and subheadlines contain the relevant keywords?
  • (Vs) Stuffing – Does your site overuse the target keywords you want to rank for?
  • (Vh) Hidden – Does your color or site design hide words you are trying to rank for?
Offpage SEO Factors:


  • (Ta) Authority – Is your site seen as an authority on any specific topic?
  • (Te) Engage – Is your bounce rate low and do visitors spend time reading your content?
  • (Th) History – Has your site existed for a while and operated the same way?
  • (Ti) Identity – Does your site verify the identity of its authors?
  • (Vp) Piracy –  Has your site been flagged for sharing stolen content without proper reference to its sources?
  • (Va) Ads – Does your site run excessive ads, particularly above the fold?offpage SEO


  • (Lq) Quality – Do the links pointing towards your site come from trusted sources?
  • (Lt) Text – Does the anchor text for the links pointing to your site contain relevant keywords?
  • (Ln) Numbers – Do you have a higher quantity of links pointing to your pages?
  • (Vp) Paid – Have you purchased links to enhance your ranking potential?
  • (Vs) Spam – Have you created backlinks by spamming other sites, forums, or directories?


  • (Pc) Country – Ranks higher for people who live in your country.
  • (Pl) Locality – Ranks higher for people in your local area or region.
  • (Ph) History – Ranks higher for people who have favored or shared your content in the past.
  • (Ps) Social – Ranks higher for someone who has socially favored your site.


  • (Sr) Reputation – Do respected people or companies on social media share your content?
  • (Ss) Shares – Do many people share your content on social networks?

Recommended: Is linkbuilding really dead? Read this post to find out…

If there is one thing for you to take away from the entire Periodic table of SEO Success factors, is that onpage SEO factors are a lot easier for you to control than the offpage factors. Onpage has to do with your site while offpage has to do with the rest of the internet. The point is not to fake the popularity of your site, but to contribute to the internet and get noticed naturally. Updating your site consistently with fresh, valuable content that interests other readers is the single, BEST way to rank.

What Is SEO Conclusion

So, what is SEO? Hopefully you’ve learned that it is quite involved! Taking the time to study SEO and the many SEO success factors is the first step to true website ranking. If you don’t take the time to build up your site organically, brick by brick, your site will one day see a day of reckoning. Google is a smart cookie!

Stay tuned to Freedom From Failure for some additional resources to aid in your SEO endeavors. Thanks for reading this post about what is SEO! I hope you are bit smarter and more capable of ranking now that you are finished. Talk again soon!

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