What is Search Engine Optimization or SEO?

As an SEO agency based in Cape Town, we often mention SEO (Search Engine Optimization) but we have never explained exactly what it is and why it is important. In this post, we are going to dive into SEO and how it fits into the digital marketing world in more detail.

We will break down the history of SEO, give you some light pointers on how you can get started and what you need to look out for when doing SEO.

What is SEO and Why Does it Matter?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization which is the process of increasing both the quality and quantity and traffic to your website through increasing the visibility of your site.

In short, the goal of an SEO strategist is getting your site found in search engines. The traffic that you get from SEO is called organic traffic as it is not paid for traffic. We highlight this more clearly in the image below:

What is SEO



SEO is important because people trust search engines and having your business on the top of a search result increases your website’s trust factor. More often than not, traffic from SEO is the primary source of the traffic to your website.

Further to that, having your site well-optimized increases the user experience which in turn leads to better leads and enquiries.

Have a look at these articles to learn more on SEO:


The History of SEO

SEO dates back to 1997 when the need to get increased visibility to websites became a need. At the time Google and the search engines we know today didn’t quite exist just yet.

The rise, fabled, has been attributed to a band. The band’s name was Jefferson Starship who got disgruntled because their website was not number 1 on page 1. In fact, it was the fourth result on page 1. From this, SEO grew and continues to grow over 22 years later.

It also had a series of names that were used which, to some extent, no longer matter. Some of these terms were:

  • Search engine placement
  • Search engine Positioning
  • Search engine ranking
  • Search engine registration


And so the list goes on and on. This was because of the internet at the time. It was more like the yellow pages that anything else. Then came Google and well, just about everything changed.

SEO became a lot more important and a lot more relevant. People wised up and started investing in and saw wondrous results. Still today, this tactic in digital marketing is one of the most trusted to get results.

If you want to read more about the history of SEO have a look at these:


Key terms to know

In SEO, there are a ton of terms and terminology that gets floated around but we have outlined a couple that we feel are important to know as you learn more about search engine optimization. These terms are:

Black Hat

Black hat is a set of tactics that are used that violate Google and other search engine’s quality guidelines. They lead to quickly short term boosts but often have massively negative consequences in the form of penalties and manual actions.


This refers to search engines and how they crawl and index your site.


De-indexed refers to pages that are not crawled or included in a search engine index. In other words, people won’t find it if they search for it.

Google My Business Listing

This is a map result. Solely aimed at local searches such as “Buy shoes in Cape Town”. You generally see a set of map results right under the paid set of listings.


The opposite of de-indexed. Your content or web pages are included in the index which means they can be found in search.


This is a set of words or phrases that you are creating content around to target what people are searching for. Keywords and phrases are also what people type into a search engine to find information or products.


This is where a site is positioned in a set of search results. Your site sits in a rank/position of 1 – 10 on page 1. 21 – 30 on page 2 and so on. The goal, of course, is to be in the top 6 positions on page 1.

Tips and Reminders for SEO

There are a couple of tips and reminders for SEO that is rather important and when explaining what SEO is, we need to point these out.

SEO is a long term investment

Within the first few months to a year, you will start to notice the considerable impact from your SEO efforts. The best part is that most of what you do now will have long term benefits that will increase as you continue to work on the site. It’s like compounding interest if done right.

SEO is cost-effective

Yes, to have your site optimized correctly but it is considerably more cost-effective than the alternative methods of Search Marketing. In other words, the return on investment is greater.

Don’t do follow black hat tactics

There are a number of black hat tactics or too good to be true strategies out there that promise instant results. Steer clear of those because as much as you may have results now, before long, you will see the massive negative impact that these black hat tactics can have on your site.

Be patient

As we mentioned, SEO is a long term investment. It is also a marathon and not a sprint. It can take time before you start to see results but in time, if you practice patience, you will see those results and they will do wonders for your brand online.


In closing, SEO can appear to be a relatively daunting topic but we hope this introduction into what it is had helped you to better understand it. Search engine optimization can be a really powerful tool to boost your business and take you far ahead of your competitors.

If you want to learn more about SEO have a look here to see all our content that relates to the topic.

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Having been established in 2005, in Cape Town, South Africa, Elemental is primarily focused on providing web development services and digital marketing campaigns.