If you’re new to search marketing like me, the big, wide world of SEO can seem impossibly daunting and confusing. The vernacular is highly specific, search engines are constantly updating, and it’s easy to become lost in all the details. This week’s Boxcar blog is here to cover the absolute basics of SEO to help you establish a solid footing from which to move forward.


SEO is an acronym that stands for search engine optimization. The goal of SEO is to have your webpage rank higher on a search engine results page (also referred to as a SERP). SEO works because search engines crawl the internet to find particular keywords, rank them, then store this information in databases. The search engines recall this stored information whenever a query is entered into the engine.


SEO is important because it provides targeted traffic. If your site isn’t optimized, your audience might not be able to find it. This is a disservice both to your potential customers and your business, especially if you’re good at what you do. When your site isn’t optimized, your audience can’t find you, and you don’t get a chance to show off your awesome professional skills.


Two of the most basic elements of SEO are keywords and links. Keywords are the words used in a search query that direct the searcher to sites relevant to their needs. A bookstore’s keywords might include “books,” “young adult fiction,” and “existential philosophy texts,” whereas an advertiser or marketer’s website will likely include keywords such as “digital advertising,” “marketing strategy,” or “digital design.” If someone is looking to find coffee table books, a search for only “books” will yield a ton of results. If the searcher narrows their query down to “coffee table books,” however, the bookstore that is optimized for those specific keywords will rank higher on the SERP than other bookstores. You should not attempt to rank highly for all keywords as they are not all necessary to your audience’s needs, but you should aim to rank highly for keywords that are specific and relevant to your site. Keywords can be optimized for each page of your site by being placed in the title tag, near the top of the page, and in the body copy, among other places on the page.


Inbound links are valuable because they indicate a site’s popularity. Having one website link to yours is essentially an endorsement of your site, so you want to amass as many reliable links as possible by engaging in link-building campaigns. A common mistake beginner SEOs fall victim to is buying links as part of their campaigns. While search engines value links with merit, they penalize spammy links. There are plenty of methods to get worthwhile links, however. The most important method is to create high-quality work that people will talk about and link to on their own without any prompting. Additionally, contacting your business partners and exchanging links with them is a great way to collect links.


On your journey to whatever your SEO goals may be, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to know everything about SEO to benefit from it. There are multiple levels of SEO literacy, from the absolute basics to the self-proclaimed “gurus.” Knowing how to optimize your site in any capacity is useful and will provide you with important skills.


If you’re looking for an in-depth guide to SEO, check out the Moz SEO guide as well as their SEO tools.