SEO: What It Is, What It Is Not

Helping you understand search engine optimization


For many of us, search engine optimization (SEO) is a term we've heard a lot about, even if its exact definition remains a mystery. Technically speaking, it's the process of improving your site's rankings in search engine results, as well as increasing the traffic to and visibility of your domain.


what is seo


The question is: How?


To do this, you have to provide valuable, trustworthy content - a difficult task in today's overly-saturated world - and satisfy a need, among other things. Because SEO is a mercurial and constantly-evolving part of web marketing, it can be intimidating for many. Not to mention, SEO as we know it is relatively new, forced to come out of the shadows by wicked smart algorithms developed by Google, Bing, and other search engines.


Cybernautic has provided SEO services to businesses for years - we've seen SEO change and develop over the years, and we know how to build effective, durable content that will improve your site's performance and satisfy customers. 


Sounds awesome! Optimize my website


"what if my website is due for an update?"


Well, it just so happens that you've come to the right place. Cybernautic is the premier web design company in Bloomington-Normal, and we'd love to work with you to build a fully-custom, mobile-friendly website that tells your story.


I want a custom site from Cybernautic



So, What Is Search Engine Optimization?


A run-of-the-mill dictionary definition of SEO might describe it as a branch of web marketing devoted to increasing a site's success in organic (ie: non-paid) search results. What does this mean?


SEO in a nutshell:

  • Optimize site content (make it easily readable and widely useful)
  • Increase site traffic
  • Improve search rankings


Search engine optimization essentially means making your website friendly to both search engines and internet users, which can be a tricky balance. 


Related: See how SEO has changed over the years


What does SEO entail, exactly?


Search engine optimization involves, well, lots of optimization. The pages on your website need to be useful and easily read for both users and search engines, which is the tricky part. So, SEO involves content writing, studying analytics, researching keywords, and other technical aspects.


Content is a massive component of search engine optimization. Google and other search engines love to see up-to-date, relevant, and useful content on your website. In the age of content saturation, however, you want to be mindful that what you publish is genuinely useful.


Is it content users will share or tell their friends about? If so, search engines will recognize this and give it a bump in ranking. If your content is not useful or relevant, not only will search engines not give it any favor, but also it will be time wasted on your end. You don't want to publish content just for the sake of doing so.


See Our Work


Link building is another large component to SEO, though it isn't nearly as straightforward as content. Here more than perhaps any other sector of SEO, the phrase "quality over quantity" rings true.


Earning credible, authoritative links is key. You'll also want to build links within your website, which makes it easier both for users to find what they're looking for and for search engines to crawl and index your content.


SEO Glossary - Terms To Know


In case at any point you come across terminology with which you're unfamiliar, we've put together a glossary of commonly-used terms in the SEO world. You may encounter some terms which aren't featured here, but we feel this is a pretty good list to get you started.



  • 301: Permanent server redirect. These will send users from a deleted/removed page to one that is relevant to their query.

  • Adwords: Google's Pay Per Click advertisement program. 

  • Algorithm: A program used by search engines in compiling search results (you'll often see us refer to Google's Penguin and Panda algorithms, for example).

  • Analytics: A program that helps a business gather and analyze data about its website usage (Google Analytics is perhaps the most popular of such programs).
  • Authority (aka: trust, link juice, Google juice): Trust credited to a site for a given search query. Earned largely by acquiring links (a sign of legitimacy) from other trusted sites.

  • Back link (aka: inlink, incoming link, inbound link) A link to a page or site from a separate any page or site.

  • Black hat: SEO tactics that are suspicious in nature or in direct violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines (stay away from these).

  • Bounce rate: The percentage of users who leave a site or page without viewing other pages on that site.

  • Content (aka: text, copy): The part of a site or page intended for the user to read. Should be of interest and useful.

  • Directory page: A page full of links to related webpages for a given topic.

  • Index: To add a web page to a search engine's "rolodex." 

  • Keyword density: The amount of times a keyword is used per a certain amount of text (ie: one keyword per 200 words). Unnaturally high keyword density (keyword stuffing) will eventually result in a penalty from SERPs.

  • Landing page: The page a user will land on after clicking its link in a SERP.

  • Link building: The process of accumulating incoming links from other sites (take caution not to do this too quickly, or search engines may view it as spammy).

  • Long tail: Longer, more specific search terms that are less competitive but often result in higher conversion rates. Note: not to be confused with long pig.

  • META tags: A page's title that is displayed in SERPs. This is what users see in the hyperlink they'll click on to access your page.

  • Organic search: Results generated from a user's Google search (not including paid advertisements).

  • PPC (Pay Per Click): An advertisement plan in which advertisers pay add agencies (such as Google) when a user clicks accesses their ad (think: Google Adwords).

  • SE: Search engine

  • SERP: Search engine results page

  • Spider (aka: bot, crawler): A tool used by search engines to find and index web pages. Your site needs to be optimized for both users and spiders.

  • White hat: SEO techniques which are not shady in nature and comply with best practice guidelines (such as Google Webmaster Guidelines).


Your Local seo strategy


A cursory internet search will pull up excellent write-ups from sites like Moz and Search Engine Land, but what those sites don't (and can't, realistically) do is provide a local SEO strategy for your business. That's where we come in.


Of course, there are general guidelines for SEO - in effect, the DOs and DON'Ts. There are tips and tricks that work for small businesses and huge conglomerates alike. At the same time, their SEO strategies will be inherently and inevitably different.


If you want your business to make its home at the top of search results, you need a company that can craft a local SEO strategy. We've had success in our hometown, but we've also had success in other cites, states, and countries. We do this by learning about the places our clients call home and crafting authentic, unique sites and content to suit their business model.


What we do on the local level:

  • Craft useful, informative content suited to your specific clientele
  • Separate you from competitors in the area
  • Update your company's internet directory
  • Secure your business' local listings
  • Boost your site's visibility and authority


As we said above, SEO involves directing search traffic to your website, increasing your site's rankings in search engine results, and ultimately being of service - with the seemingly infinite number of websites floating around the internet today, you don't want to be "just another" website taking up bandwith.


Your goal should be to satisfy a need, not mimic what a dozen companies are already doing - your website is a big part of this. For this reason, you should choose a company who has always done things differently in providing web design services in Bloomington-Normal.


What Is Search Engine Optimization Not?


As we've discussed, there are many questions swirling around the seeming enigma that is search engine optimization. We've given it a definition, we've gone over its history, but perhaps you're still left with the question: "What is SEO... not?"


Is SEO Dead?


First and foremost, SEO is not dead. It's gone through as many or more changes than other sectors of internet marketing, but it is not dead, nor will it be anytime soon.


SEO is also not formulaic. Back in the Wild West days, black hat strategies, keyword stuffing, and spammy links reigned supreme. Rules were few and far between, and high rankings were easy to achieve as a result of search engine manipulation. But, that changed before too long. Google's Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, and Caffeine updates forced SEO to metamorphose into something else entirely.


Now, there may be rules regarding proper search engine etiquette, if you will, but that doesn't mean each SEO campaign is the same - far from it, in fact. There are best practices - and worst practices, for the record - but there is no one way to SEO success. When choosing a company  for SEO services, it is imperative that you choose a company who will work personally with you to develop an SEO strategy that fits your business.


Is SEO paid advertising?


SEO is not paid advertising (also known as "pay per click" campaigns). While your business will have to pay for SEO services, you are not paying Google or another search engine to provide your website with a better ranking. This is the key difference between SEO and PPC. 


On that note, SEO is also not SEM (search engine marketing). Technically speaking, SEO is categorized with SEM under the umbrella term "Search Marketing," but the two are not interchangeable. SEM, like pay-per-click, involves paid search advertising.


"Why does SEO take so long?"


SEO is not an overnight fix, plain and simple. It takes time for search engines to crawl and index the pages on your website. The processes involved in SEO are definitely geared toward the long run (eg: establishing credibility and earning inbound links to your site). Many businesses do not have the time to oversee such a long-term project, and so they'll turn to companies like Cybernautic to oversee their SEO campaign.


Search Engine Optimization by Cybernautic