What Does SEO Stand For?

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SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization”.  At it’s most basic form, it is the practice of making adjustments online to optimize the presence of a website on a search engine. Think: Getting top placement on a search engine’s results without having to buy a paid placement.

Paid vs Organic Search Engine Traffic

When someone, such as yourself, searches for a product, information, or a service on a search engine there are usually two types of results that appear. The first few results are normally paid placements. An advertiser pays, usually for every click, that the paid listing receives. Here’s an example of a paid listing on Google:
Search Engine Paid ResultsYou will notice that next to the green website address is a bordered green box including the word “Ad” to notify the user that this is a paid placement. Almost every paid placement on a search engine is on a CPC (costs per click) basis.

With SEO, we concentrate on achieving non-paid, also known as “organic”, search engine listings. Traditionally, there are ten organic listings on each search results page. The goal of SEO is to rank a page for a search term that is relevant to that page. Here is an example of an organic search engine listing:

Alternative SEO Listings

Aside from the traditional organic search engine listings, there are several other organic listings that a website or business can attain. The most common of these types are:

Local Packs (map listings)

As of the today, both Bing and Google display map results among their search engine results when a local search takes place. So, if you search for “car accident lawyer” the search engine knows that you’re more than likely want a local attorney. So, to better fulfill the user’s intent locally targeted traditional results and map results are shown. On Google, these types of results are often referred to as either local packs or map-pack results.

Bing Organic Map Results

Bing Organic Map Results

Google Organic Map Results

Google Organic Map Results (3Pack)

Featured “Zero Position” Snippets

Similar to how search engines show map results to better fulfill the user’s intent, search engines will now offer up a priority result at, or near, the top of the page with the answer to a question, definition, or other content that it believes answers the user’s query best. These types of results are Featured Snippets from websites and are often referred to as “Zero Position” placements. The information displayed in these features snippets are most often from one of the top three traditional organic results. Here’s a sample of a featured snippet when searching “how to tie a bow tie”:
Organic Featured Snippet

Bringing It All Together

At the end of the day, there are many opportunities for a website to have added exposure via paid and organic listings on search engines. SEO is, at its core, the practice of optimizing a website in such a way as to give it the best opportunity to achieve a high ranking for what relevant to that page.

Matthew Post

Beginning his career as a website developer and SEO in the late 90s, Matthew Post takes a data-driven approach in SEO and CRO. In 2018, he co-founded SEM Dynamics to focus on his passion for assisting local businesses increase their reach.

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