Time for a New Definition of SEO

Time for a New Definition of SEO

August 27, 2013 in SEO Evolution

The way we market, sell and deliver SEO services has undoubtedly changed. Google’s algorithm updates have made content marketing and social media the core of a strong organic search strategy. So while the practice of SEO evolves, the definition of SEO ought to evolve as well.

Other digital marketing tactics such as email marketing, paid search and search retargeting have very clear, undisputed definitions. The definition of SEO, on the other hand, seems to be just as unclear as the practice itself. In fact, even when you Google the phrase, “definition of SEO,” nothing really concrete is returned.

Wikipedia’s official definition is, “the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page.”

Search engine optimization is about way more than this.

Webopedia’s definition is, “a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine (SERP) — including Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines.”

SEO is more than this too. But what is an accurate description of SEO given the changes to the industry?

Web Presence Optimization is an all-encompassing approach to optimizing an entire web presence for organic search including the website, social channels, blogs, articles and press releases. Where strategies, techniques and tactics are still used, but content marketing and social media are strongly incorporated. Is Web Presence Optimization the evolution of SEO?

The Hierarchy of Web Presence Optimization

What is your definition of SEO?

Here are some new definitions of SEO to consider, and I invite you to comment below with your own.

1. SEO is the ongoing process of uncovering and discovering non-branded keywords that are driving organic search traffic and conversions, then publishing content optimized for those keywords.

2. SEO is the process of producing optimized content that is discoverable by the target audience as they progress through the buying cycle.

3. SEO is about a prospect discovering a brand’s content and web presence through search and social, and the owner of that content being able to understand who consumed the content and the impact of the content across the organization.

4. SEO is the outcome of a content marketing strategy that makes use of highly converting keywords that your target audience is searching on.

5. SEO is the process of enhancing the visibility of a brand’s web presence in organic search.

SEO in the digital marketing mix is here to stay. Standardizing a definition of SEO will help buyers better understand the importance of it, the reason for committing to it, and the short- and long-term impact an SEO strategy has on a web presence.

Join the conversation and share your thoughts about the definition of SEO.

This article was originally published on Search Engine Watch.

  • AJ Lau 18:30h, 27 August Reply

    Excellent article, I’ve used that infographic in client presentations.

    • Robin 23:13h, 28 August Reply

      SEO has now become very social as well as keywords and optimized content. This is the way Google will make everyone join Google +, Google webmaster, Google Places, Google Analytics, and gmail. They control the game and we play it to get recognized. Smart Company

  • Nigel 18:35h, 27 August Reply

    I’ve been more successful selling Local SEO and lead generation services when I simplified the definition so that my customers understand.

    I like #2 & #4. However, they both have too much jargon that the average business owner doesn’t know. I avoid phrases like “Keywords”, “optimized content”, and anything about Google’s army of Robot Spiders ;)

    Instead I use metaphors and stories… I tell my clients that SEO is using Google to “step in front” of customers right when they are searching to buy your products and services in your city. Then I tell them a story about a real client. In April I sent [client name] over 90 leads, that converted into 30 sales at an average price per sale of $3000 for a total revenue of $90,0000 in a thirty day period.

  • Peter Fieger 18:38h, 27 August Reply

    Great post Krista. Maybe an option would be
    “SEO is the application of appropriate practices to improve the search results position of a web property.”

    I like the idea that the same practices are not necessarily appropriate to all web properties and situations, and the reality that the relevant, appropriate practices change over time (in fact in pretty short cycles!).

  • Brent Purves 18:46h, 27 August Reply

    Thanks for the great infographic. SEO seems to be changing fast these days with content marketing and social media playing increasingly larger roles. When consulting with businesses or non-profits, the easier we can make it for clients to understand and see ROI opportunity of SEO the easier it is to sell.

  • Jennifer Klementti 19:28h, 27 August Reply

    Great article! The infographic really helps too. I look at SEO as the continually optimized content that needs to be published to drive targeted traffic to your site. We are looking at keyword research too so this article helps to put things into levels of importance and where we can improve and build upon our SEO strategies.

    Thanks! I love reading your blog posts! They are very informative!

  • photo templates for fraternities 20:44h, 27 August Reply

    SEO is all about content to Google but…
    Google says add fresh content all the time…. do it for readers they say not Google and maybe we will rank your site near the top. But…. if you sell products, just products what do you do, rewrite your descriptions over and over not really making the description any clearer or better just doing it so Google will see fresh content? This does not make sense and really isn’t for the readers at all its just so Google will not take away MORE traffic. They are making site owners jump through hoops for no reason and eventually Google will change their minds and say everything were doing now is wrong and we are just trying to advertise our business and now… you will get you penalized. What is and entrepreneur suppose to do? Why Google Why?

  • Michael Kelly 22:57h, 27 August Reply

    If you think getting a company or product high in a Google search is difficult, spare a thought for me. I’ve invented a device that is unique. It has no generic name and prospective buyers don’t know that such a device exists, so they soldier on without it, never searching for an easier way. I tried keywords my target demographic might use to search for other things, but of course Google said “no relevance” between the ads and the keywords.
    I guess it’s an unusual situation but it highlights that even the smartest SEO doesn’t always work.

  • Nikhil Raj 07:05h, 28 August Reply

    My definition is too big a sentence ;)
    “SEO is the process of building and maintaining a user friendly website which follows SE guidelines, best practices, also producing quality content which answers the users concerns about a particular topic and promoting the site through various channels like social media thereby improving the visibility of the site in relevant search results so as to grow the number of visitors to the site. Businesses often use search engines as one channel to acquire leads through.”

  • 39marketing 08:01h, 28 August Reply

    Great article!
    My proposal for SEO definition is:
    SEO is an ongoing process to create the most interesting opportunities to web searchers to find what they are loooking for exactly on my website. The process is composed by keywords research, content marketing, article marketing, link building, social media presence.

    Hope to have been usefull

  • Bassudeb Kumar Mallick 15:22h, 28 August Reply

    SEO is a process which provides a strong evidences to create the most interesting opportunities to web ranking. The process is composed by keywords research, content marketing, article marketing, link building, social media presence.

    • Sean Ruiz (SEO Inc.) 16:42h, 28 August Reply

      Search engine optimization is erroneously synonymous with rankings.

      It should mean the optimal availability of a Web site’s content to visitors, and that should be achieved through the optimal indexing of the Web site.

      I like to think of an SEO as a type of librarian, Google as a type of library, and the Web site as a type of book. It’s the librarian’s job to put the book where it belongs… so that people can find it.

  • geoio 18:03h, 28 August Reply

    “SEO is the process of producing optimized content that is discoverable by the target audience”>>> that’s it! Simple and true!
    I’m SE optimizing successfully websites from years, but last 1.5 months I see no measurable results. I get more visitors as usually, but no figures! Something new is happening with Google!

    • Gloria 21:47h, 28 August Reply

      Great definition Geoio, I would take it a step further…
      “SEO is the process of producing optimized content that is discoverable by the target audience, while retaining a hospitable web page environment for converting the audience into customers.”
      I’ve seen too many link-filled pages with unfriendly, bulky text that hinders conversions. SEO needs to get visitors to the web page but shouldn’t get in the way of sales.

  • Stephen Palmer 15:52h, 29 August Reply


    This one is for our public. Here is my version of a simple (true to WSI name) value statement:

    Authoritative Search position Engages new business Opportunities.

    acronym: Search Engages Opportunities

  • Kristjan-Paul Raude 05:59h, 31 August Reply

    Good article. It was good meetings at convention as well, working through different aspects of seo. I am currently using following SEO definition:

    SEO is managing and growing company virtual assets value by constantly working with good content and analyzing clients behaviors.


  • Devlin 13:21h, 11 September Reply

    SEO is like a food. SEOs are the chefs.

  • seo market rats 07:36h, 27 September Reply

    The most important thing in this blog is that Seo is the process.

  • Jeric 02:55h, 18 October Reply

    I agree with all your definition about SEO, especially the last one. :D

  • nemo06 08:10h, 21 February Reply

    Very interesting, thanks:)

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