Search engine optimization: the basics

Search engine optimization: the basics
Search engine optimization: the basics

In order to be popular on the Web and improve the visibility of your site, it is essential to understand the challenges of natural referencing and thus increase your chances for Internet users to find your site. Optimization for search engines improves the ranking (ie ranking, by making a web page go up) in the search engine results. The goal is to be among the first results when doing a search. Discover the basics and the main SEO concepts in our Digital Guide.

What is SEO?

Natural referencing, or SEO in English (Search Engine Optimization) is one of the most important branches of online marketing. The principle is simple: if you optimize the content of your website for users, you are better referenced by search engines. There are two types of results when performing an online search:

  • SEO on the one hand, which is SEO called "natural" or "organic" and not paid. It is the result of long-term work.
  • SEA on the other hand, that is, business results (online ads or sponsored links). SEA is the acronym for Search Engine Advertising, and allows paid advertising to attract more visitors by being better referenced.

SEA and SEO are two areas included in SEM (Search Engine Marketing). SEM brings together all marketing activities on search engines and social networks. To simplify: SEO + SEA = SEM.

SEO and business results

In SEM, there are therefore two types of referencing: natural on the one hand for SEO, and paying on the other hand for SEA.

With SEA, or online advertising, each website administrator can increase their visibility through ads and appear at the top of search results, in particular by using Google AdWords. On the other hand, a good ranking among the search results that have been referenced naturally is the result of a good analysis and a successful SEO optimization. Sponsored links (SEA) are marked as such in the search results and framed in blue as below. Naturally referenced results (SEO) are framed in red.

What is the purpose of SEO?

This is to give visibility to a website on search engines and to ensure that it is referenced to appear in the first pages of a search result. Whether it's an online store, a blog or a portal, you have to optimize your site according to the corresponding keywords.

The first step in this online marketing strategy therefore consists in optimizing these keywords according to the theme and the offer. For example, if one sells handbags, it is interesting to use terms like "buy handbag online" or "woman handbag". The more you appear at the top of the results, the more you increase your chances of Internet users clicking on your page: the first page of results generally has more than nine clicks out of ten. The most used search engine in France is Google, with more than 95% market share. (August 2015).

Pros and cons of SEO

The primary advantage of SEO is its good cost / benefit ratio. A good positioning in SEO is the indicator of a good site optimization and not of a commercial result as in SEA. Nevertheless, an SEO strategy involves work benefits, and therefore costs.

Benefits of SEO:

  • delivers a continuous flow of targeted traffic
  • a long-term investment
  • helps build your online reputation and increase your visibility
  • a high conversion rate for merchant sites

Thanks to SEO analysis tools, it is also possible to measure your success and monitor the competition. Tools such as SISTRIX or Searchmetrics allow you to draw up a detailed analysis. 

Of course, there are no miracle recipes and SEO also has drawbacks. To start with:

  • addiction to changes in Google’s SEO algorithms, as an elaborate and successful SEO strategy can become ineffective overnight.
  • an expensive strategy in terms of working time: building an online reputation is a process that takes weeks or even months.
  • efforts and a return on investment that are difficult to measure in advance and that must be sustained over the long term.

On the other hand, an SEA strategy represents a higher budget than natural referencing but guarantees almost immediate results. There is also a high conversion rate for merchant sites. An SEA strategy delivers a continuous flow of targeted traffic, but the results stop when funding for sponsored links is stopped. Conversely, an SEO strategy is long term and the results are sustainable.

Off-page and on-page optimization: what differences?

There are two distinct areas in SEO: on-page and off-page optimization.

On-page optimization is about making your website more attractive to visitors and crawlers so that the site is ranked higher on high-traffic, and therefore competitive, searches. On-page optimization is the most widely used SEO method in terms of natural SEO. On-page, we focus above all on quality content, whether in terms of texts, infographics and illustrative elements: the content must be attractive to the visitor. Off-page optimization, on the other hand, encompasses all external website actions that signal to Google that your content may also be of interest to readers of other web pages. These are primarily links that redirect your articles to other sites. This exchange of good web marketing procedures with complementary and non-competing “cousin” sites will allow you to optimize them.

On-page optimization

On-page SEO therefore includes all the search engine optimization measures that can be implemented on your own website internally. On the other hand, off-page SEO depends on third parties. As the name suggests, the off-page is linked to factors outside the page. These factors increase the number of visitors and develop the popularity of your site, in particular according to the quantity and quality of the links which point towards your page.

The main aspects of on-page optimization:

1.Content: the goal is to create quality and engaging content. SEO content must be relevant and unique: plagiarism and duplicate content are to be avoided. When using keywords, synonyms must also be used frequently. Finally, you should always write above all for users, not for Google's crawlers.

2.Structure: content optimization alone is not enough in web marketing. The page structure should also be taken care of. The title, paragraphs and lists improve readability, both for users and for search engines.

3.Multimedia content: illustrative content (images, videos, graphics ...) is widely appreciated. In order for the crawlers to read them, you must insert the file name of the selected content, a title, a text alternative and keywords for the images and videos.

4.Meta-data: they are readable for search engines and allow you to structure your digital resources. The main attributes of the page optimization are the title and the description (title and description in French). These tags allow you to add a description of the page displayed, as well as the keywords.

5.Link structure: internal links are useful for readers to point to another page, as well as for search engines. Pages that receive more internal links tend to perform better.

6.Technical aspect: another major component is the optimization of the source code. Your site being composed of several pages, each must have its own positioning, based on both the content and the source code. A good optimization of the source code avoids too long loading times and bugs, penalized by Google in the referencing criteria.

Off-page optimization

Off-page optimization includes all web marketing measures indirectly linked to your website, i.e. signals from external pages. If a link directs a page A towards a page B, the number of visits of page B will be seen increasing, thus promoting its notoriety. Google considers the reputation and relevance of a page in its ranking algorithm. These links, called backlinks, allow you to navigate from site to site. The more backlinks a site has, the more likely it is to be visited and therefore to be better and quickly referenced by them by search engines.

The main off-page tools:


Link-building or net-building occupies a central place in off-page optimization and makes it possible to greatly improve the positioning of the site in search results. Backlinks on a page are considered a popularity measure. It goes without saying that their quality takes precedence over their quantity. The concept of linkbuilding describes all the efforts made to obtain backlinks from partner sites which are complementary and not competitive.

Social referencing: spinoffs on social networks

Exploiting social networks intelligently completes the SEO strategy by optimizing its visibility. Facebook, Twitter, Google +… These networks are among the best known and bring together millions of users. But beware: high visibility of your website on social networks does not guarantee a good SEO on Google, and the opinions of experts on the issue diverge. One thing is certain, however: a large amount of likes and shares has a positive impact on the popularity of a website. Companies active on social networks (whether through contests, surveys or others) benefit from more public attention, more visits and better customer loyalty.
Search engine optimization: the basics Search engine optimization: the basics Reviewed by DDTeam on December 29, 2019 Rating: 5


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