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What is SEO?

Aqueous Digital’s Beginners Guide to SEO

If you’re marketing your business online, SEO is a term that you can’t escape.

You may have a vague idea of what it’s all about. but perhaps don’t quite understand how it works. and why it’s so important to the success of your business.

This beginners guide takes a look at SEO in detail, and aims to answer some of the most common questions people have.


What does SEO stand for?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation.


What does search engine optimisation mean?

In simple terms, it means intelligently adding content to your site that improves its position in search engine results.

Part art, part science, it takes what’s known about how search engines generate results and aims to give them precisely what they’re looking for.

This is most readily done through the use of keywords; words and phrases people type into a search engine when they’re looking for particular goods or services.


How does SEO work?



Search engines such as Google, or Bing, use what’s known as ‘bots’ to scan, or ‘crawl’ across pages on the web.

They go from page to page, site to site, gathering key information contained within them and cataloguing it on a vast search engine index.

Then, smart algorithms analyse pages that appear in the index, considering a range of signals or ranking factors that determine where a site should appear in a search result for a particular term.

These algorithms are continually updated, and search engines apply different criteria.

That is why search results using different search engine won’t return the same ranking results.

Even though Google and other search engines never make their algorithms public, SEO specialists use what they know about their criteria, gathered from statements and filed patents, to ascertain what’s being taken into account.

These factors broadly fall into four categories:

  • Relevance – is the content relevant? If you search for campsites in Cumbria, you don’t want to look at websites belonging to nail bars in Canvey Island. There may be millions of websites that are relevant to a particular search term, so the algorithms work to narrow down the field.
  • Keywords – this is too often misunderstood as the be all and end all of SEO. Ensuring you get the keywords people are searching for on your website is important, but overdo it and the algorithms will punish you for it. Keywords matter, but context is important too.
  • Authority – the algorithm will also consider how authoritative it finds your website to be regarding a particular search term. Your content not only has to contain relevant keywords, it also needs to show it knows what they mean. In the early days of mass internet use, search engines were less smart when it came to discerning what was and wasn’t junk. Pages proliferated which were little more than gobbledygook, stuffed with an array of keywords. Do that now and your website will immediately disappear into a search engine naughty corner never to be seen again. Authority can also be established by gaining quality backlinks. This is when another website links to your own content. Produce content that people want to read, share, and link to and your authority soon grows. This is sometimes known as off-page SEO.
  • Usefulness – so you’ve provided content that is both relevant and authoritative, but is it useful? Increasingly, people use Google and other search engines to ask questions. Is your content able to answer those questions? In other words, is it useful?

This might read like a tricky combination to try and pull off, but it’s perfectly achievable. Understanding how SEO works is the first step to creating content that delivers results.


What is SEO in marketing?

Once you understand how search engines work to deliver the most relevant, authoritative, and useful results for their users, you can begin to provide the right sort of content for your website. This will enable more potential customers to find your business, and to help you establish your brand.

This is at the heart of what SEO means when it comes to digital marketing.

SEO in marketing is principally about content.

With the evolving nature of search engine algorithms, the businesses that can provide the most tailored content will get more attention from search engines and, in turn, from potential customers.



If your site ranks highly, you’ll see an uptick in leads, conversions, and revenue. SEO in marketing refers to the strategies you will use to reach that goal.


SEO Marketing combines on-page and off-page strategies:


 On-page strategiesthese include all the changes you can make to your website to make it rank higher, such as:

Off-page strategieson the other hand, off-page optimisation refers to those strategies that don’t take place on your website, but serve to improve your rankings. These might include:


Why SEO marketing matters

SEO is an increasingly effective way to market your business. It matters for several reasons, including:

  • Thousands of people search Google every second; when you implement an SEO marketing strategy, you are marketing your business to a vast audience.
  • People sometimes ignore paid ads; paid adverts might get you to the top of Google rankings, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get more hits than websites that appear through organic searches. Many consumers know the difference.
  • The competition is using SEO; at least some of your competitors will be using SEO to market their business. If you don’t do it, then you’ll be falling behind.
  • SEO leads to conversions; the higher your website appears in the rankings, the more hits it will get, and the more hits it gets the more conversions you’ll secure.
  • Local SEO is one of the most effective marketing tools for small businesses; after users make a search for a local business, 88 per cent of them will call, or visit, the business they found within 24 hours.


How you should do SEO

SEO strategies are continually evolving, but most people who run a website have neither the time nor the knowledge to keep on top of some of its nuances.
So, to succeed you often only need to know the basics.

If you can then add some of the more advanced techniques, you’re likely to get ahead of the competition.


There are several steps you can take to succeed with SEO


1. What are your customers searching for?


What terms are your customers using to find the information they need. If you run a gym in Manchester, it’s not rocket science to think people may be searching for; gyms in Manchester or Manchester gyms.

Write down all the possible terms you think your customers might be using.

As well as looking for gyms, people may also search for related terms like getting fit in Manchester, healthy living Manchester, safe gyms near me, local affordable gyms


2. What’s the most popular way customers search for your business?


What’s the most common way that people are finding your business?

Very popular and obvious keywords will be used by a wide range of companies. These will often be used in title tags to help optimise a website. You should do this, but then also seek new ways to stand out from the crowd.

You can use a service such as Keywords Explorer to find relevant keywords. Choose some of the less obvious ones, and incorporate them into your content.

You stand a better chance of moving towards the top of rankings for lesser-used keywords which can still deliver a significant amount of website hits.



4. Use content intelligently to broaden your audience


A search for Manchester gyms brings up paid results, organic results and content from personal trainers discussing ‘The Best Gyms in Manchester.

This illustrates how you can use search terms intelligently to get your business towards the top of the ranking for a related search.

Perhaps people who were looking for a gym to join might then consider that a personal trainer might better meet their needs, or at the very least may take time to explore their website.


How does a personal trainer nail a search for local gyms?

They provide authoritative, relevant, and useful content pertinent to the search term.

Google is increasingly interested in what you have to say, rather than just who you are and what you do.


5. Find engaging and popular content in your field


One of the great things about the current direction of SEO is the way that it’s encouraging businesses to produce high-quality content about their field of expertise.

This fulfils a range of marketing goals, deepens engagement, and strengthens your brand.

It gives you the edge over competitors who are ‘doing SEO’ by merely looking at keywords.

The more content you provide, the more likely you are to appear in more searches.

If you’re passionate about your business, you can share it with potential customers and then see the returns.




  • SEO is often misunderstood, or done solely mechanically.
  • To implement correctly, an SEO marketing strategy takes research, time, and awareness of how the process is evolving.
  • Businesses need to be in it for the long haul because quick fixes and artificial boosts are a waste of time and money.
  • A digital marketing agency can develop a strategic approach to SEO that is sustainable over months and years, not just the short term.


Further reading on SEO

Can I do SEO myself?

Aqueous Digital’s Guide to the Top 501 SEO and Digital Marketing Terms

Aqueous Digital’s Ultimate Guide to the cost of SEO in the UK

How long does SEO take to work?

What is Technical SEO?

What is Local SEO?


Link building and outreach

What are the most important SEO ranking factors?




Want to find out more about the SEO services Aqueous Digital offer?

Call us on 0800 285 1424 or email us at to have a chat about how we can support the success of your business with our award-winning search engine optimisation.


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