What is SEO?

SEO is the process of improving your website or brand equity to increase your site's visibility in Google and other search engines. As your SEO performance improves, your website will rank higher and receive more visitors. If you want to know how Google and other search engines work, this is a great place to start, but you don't need to know that. Unless you're actually doing SEO, you need to know the high-level factors that impact SEO performance.

The activities that improve SEO can be categorized into three primary areas: website configuration, website content, and brand equity. In this article, we'll discuss what these categories are, how to measure them, and who is responsible for performance.

The Fundamental Forces That Drive SEO Performance

The forces that drive SEO performance are brand equity, content, and configuration. If you have strong brand equity, the right content, and your website is properly configured, you're going to see strong SEO performance.


Brand Equity

Our simple definition of brand equity is the product of brand awareness and brand reputation. Awareness is a good place to start, but awareness and a positive reputation is obviously better. 

Google doesn't have a direct measure of brand equity. They have to approximate it based on data they collect from user behavior and from the internet. Below are some of the signals Google uses to approximate brand equity:

  • Brand search volume: When users search for "Home Depot", Google knows that this is a brand name search and the user will likely click on and navigate to homedepot.com. If millions of people are searching for "Home Depot", Google can interpret this as brand equity.
  • Backlinks: When authoritative websites link to your website, Google sees this as a vote or citation. Websites and companies with strong brand equity usually have more links from authoritative websites.
  • Reviews: The quantity and average rating of your Google business profile reviews are used as a ranking signal. 

How to Measure It:
A great KPI for this is organic traffic to your website from your brand keyword. If more people find you by searching for your brand name, that's a clear indication you're gaining awareness. To measure your reputation and customer attitudes, use reviews on Google, G2, Amazon, and other review sources.

Who is Responsible:
SEO practitioners don't have a lot of impact on a company's brand awareness and reputation. The people most responsible for this are the CMO and CEO.

How to Improve It:

  • Make a better product and deliver more value to customers.
  • Make brand image and messaging a higher priority.
  • Increase your paid advertising budget.
  • Change marketing leadership.


Users perform a wide variety of searches before selecting a product or service. A lot of these searches are informational. Below are the factors that give your website more opportunities to capture this traffic.

Relevance: If users are performing a lot of different searches when researching your industry and company, you're going to need a lot of pages to answer these questions. For example, if a user searches for the term "term life vs. whole life insurance," you're going to need a specific page focused on this topic to rank for that keyword.

Quality: For a specific search term, there will be hundreds or thousands of relevant web pages. Which one has the best answer? Which one is the most comprehensive, well-designed, and most authoritative? Quality is about delivering the best answer for a user's search query.

How to Measure It:

  • Organic search traffic to articles and content marketing resources.
  • Engagement rate for articles and content marketing resources.
  • Organic search traffic to new content written in the past 9 months.

Who is Responsible:
Whoever is making the decisions about what gets written and approving content to go live.

How to Improve It:
Perform keyword research to find search terms relevant to your products and services. Then, create pages or write articles that offer comprehensive answers to these search terms. Dedicate enough time to each piece of content to produce something that is better than the competing results.


Most of the popular CMSs that are used to build websites today are 'SEO friendly' out of the box. However, as content editors rush to add content, delete content, and make updates, mistakes are often made. Over time, those mistakes mount up and need to be resolved before they negatively impact your SEO performance. Below are some of the activities that need to be performed to keep your technical SEO in good condition.

  • Cleaning up broken links.
  • Deleting (and redirecting) old pages with outdated content.
  • Making sure the site's pages load quickly.
  • Configuring your server and routing to make sure you're not errantly generating duplicate content.

How to Measure It:
Site auditing tools from SEO software platforms provide scores of a website's overall technical health. You also need to track a KPI for the average load time of the site's pages.

Who is Responsible:
This is the responsibility of your in-house SEO or an agency/contractor you partner with to ensure your technical SEO is in good condition.

How to Improve It:
Resolve any errors found by technical SEO professionals or reported in SEO auditing tools.

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What is SEO?