What is SEO and why is it so complex?

The big problem still with SEO is that there's no real agreement as to what it is.

Yes, that's a bold statement, but it's just so complex and wide a subject that many things could be classed as SEO.

In my mind, as long as it means you're doing something to increase your chances of being found online, you're essentially doing SEO.

So, what does that mean?

The confusion is real

We were recently at the Business Growth Show in Birmingham, and we went there with a big banner saying, “Learn all About SEO”.

We were quite proud of it.

SEO has been a big thing now for years, but we knew that many business owners didn't know how to do it, how it could help their websites get found, etc.

So, we aimed to show them.

The big problem?

Most people didn't even know what SEO stood for, let alone what it meant.

A lot didn't know what web page optimisation consisted of.

And they certainly weren't ready to learn SEO.

And that's a big problem for us.

We're starting off on the wrong foot – people just don't understand what SEO means, and how it is essential for business, even though people like us have been saying it's essential for ages.

Of those that did understand it, we'd hear such things as:

“Ooo, it's a bit technical, isn't it?”


“Isn't it all a bit shady? I heard Google doesn't like it.”

None of that helps our customers or us, so where do we go from here?

Redefining SEO

Over the years, people in our industry have been hell bent on redefining the term SEO, in fact, coming up with new words to describe what we do.

There's “digital marketing,” “content marketing” and “inbound marketing” – all subtely different takes on pretty much the same thing.

In fact, they probably deal with the finer points of a tactic rather than being an overall description of something that makes you more money.

Because that, in effect, is what SEO is.

It's a set of techniques that enable you to get found on search engines and therefore make more money.


Well, I guess it is, but the execution of it is where people get unstuck.

For example, the Internet is rife with adverts for backlink services, and they say that they'll get you placements on blogs with great links that will “rocket your rankings.” Will it?

I dunno, it might, but does that matter?

Let me confuse you a bit here.

I firmly believe that SEO, and by that, I do mean “search engine optimisation,” doesn't have to be all about search engines.

Or, to put it more accurately, you shouldn't concentrate just on the search engine, the traffic can and should come first.

The tail can indeed wag the dog.

What does all this mean?

I'm going to deal with two of the most important aspects of ranking.

These are two really powerful metrics that Google (and others) use to decide where and how to rank a website in the top slots.

If you're in the top ten, then it's likely that your site excels in these two measurments.

They are the number of visitors you get, and the amount of time they spend on your website.

What, I hear you scream, number of visitors? Surely that can't happen until I'm number one?

No, you need to get your visitor numbers up before Google notices.

Google doesn't make a website number one if it's not getting lots of visitors already.

This might sound like a crazy revelation, but it does make sense.

Google wants to give results that include some of the most popular websites on the Internet. And if you're not already getting visitors, you obviously ain't that popular.

And then there's the amount of time those visitors spend on your site.

If your content is really good, people will stick around and read it. If it's crap, they won't.

Again, Google is watching, and it's checking to ensure that people are engaged with your website and are getting value from it.

So how do I do this?

This is obviously where I start to go off-piste a bit with my definition of SEO.

You see, I believe that anything you do to get people to go to and read the stuff on your site is now fair game to be called SEO.

It's not just about getting some dodgy links from somewhere; it's about doing whatever it takes to get people to visit it and engage.

For example, getting people to the site might be as simple as advertising it in a forum you are a part of, or a Facebook page you visit.

Maybe, if you're a florist, you could write something interesting about what people can do with dafodils in springtime. Pop this as an interesting piece in your local town's Facebook page and you've got yourself some visitors.

If you're a good writer, they might even stick around.

And while we're on the subject of sticking around, how about breaking the article up into peices, with cliffhangers at the end of each one so people just have to click on the “next” button.

You with me so far?

Those are both valid SEO techniques. Easy.


Try leafleting.

Yes, leafleting is a valid SEO technique.

It could potentially bring you lots of visitors and each one of those is a potential tick in the box for Google.

Great news!

And what about a radio advert? What about a slot on the local news? How about signs in the High Street with a link to your website?

These are all techniques that will bring visitors to your site and in turn, help your ranking.

It's all SEO baby!

So what to do next…

Simply creating content isn't going to cut it any more.

Content definitely is the key to everything, but you need to get it eyeballed, otherwise you may as well be screaming in an empty room.

So consider how to get your article read.

Don't just post it in the hope that someone might find it, push it, and use any technique at your disposal to get it in front of as many people as possible.

It’s not technical at all, just send it out and get people reading.

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Andy Calloway

Andy Calloway is the co-owner and head writer for Calloway Green Ltd, a digital marketing agency based in the village of Kinver in the West Midlands.
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