WTF is SEO? A Beginners’ Guide.

March 2024
March 2024

Mark E. Ting

Hey, I'm Mark E. Ting. Your CMA marketing maestro. Always here to help, 24/7. I love all things content, SEO, design and development. I also have a penchant for lions and fast cars.

SEO is one of those TLAs (three letter acronyms) that business people use, often without fully understanding them. Well, here at CMA (yes, guilty as charged), we’re never normally ones to put out on the first date. But, you just got lucky, cos we’re about to give away all of SEOs dirty little secrets.


So, WTF is SEO?

Let’s start with a formal introduction: SEO’s Sunday name is Search Engine Optimisation!

Whether you’re new to the marketing world or a seasoned veteran, we bet you’ve encountered some confusion as to what ‘SEO’ means and how best to make use of it.

So, for example, if we were conforming to blogging best practice, we’d start off with a TL;DR (‘Too Long; Didn’t Read’) summary of what SEO is. We’d give you the key takeaways so you could leave our website having at least learned something.

Of course, as that renowned SEO practitioner, Alexander Pope, once put it: a little learning is a dangerous thing! So, we hope you’ll hang around to get a much deeper, richer, safer understanding of the magical power of well-used SEO.

That will teach you a lot more and it’ll be great for our dwell time! (And, if you don’t know what ‘dwell time’ is, you really need to keep reading!)

Why is SEO important?

Unless you’ve just hopped out of your DeLorean, chances are you’re reliant on Google for just about every thought that pops into your head. 

How were the pyramids built?

What is SEO?

Where are my keys?

How long after ‘use by’ can I drink this milk?

Sound familiar?

Luckily, one of your searches landed, and we can only apologise that it’s this one. The good news is that you’re about to be educated on the what’s, hows and whys of Search Engine Optimisation. The fact is: You found your way here because of SEO!

Google is fantastic. But we live in an age where millions of people are simultaneously searching billions of questions for trillions of answers, therefore Google has to provide them with what they want and quickly.

Being in that mix is the core of SEO.

You need to optimise your content to ensure that YOU are the business or person that the search engine offers. That will get people onto your site as opposed to your competitors’. 

So, how does it all work?

Anatomy of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

On a Search Engine Results Page (the page you land on after typing your question [or search term] into the magic box), you’ll find two main types of results. At the very top, there are clearly marked Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads (more on those later in this series) then, below those, is the real estate we’re fighting for in this blog – the organic listings. 

Note: In 2023, Google rolled out a new feature dubbed ‘infinite / continuous scroll’, which rules out the former illustrious podium of a ‘page 1 ranking’. Page 1 meant you would appear in the top 10 results in organic search. 

These organic listings are the cornerstone of SEO. Naturally, you want your website or landing page to rank as highly as possible for various search terms relative to your business. Who doesn’t? And why should you have to pay for the privilege? 

This isn’t all vanity though – here’s the evidence to boot: 

Landing pages that secure the number 1 slot on a SERP, go on to take over a quarter of all traffic, and the top 3 spaces alone take a whopping half. 

Let’s dig deeper into the top 5 spaces below:


Looking at these stats (supplied by Semrush), the pursuit of SEO suddenly seems to feel worthy of your time (lots and lots of time), which is why SEO is one of the fastest growing specialities within the marketing sector. In black and white, the higher you rank, the more traffic you will receive.

How can I climb up SERPs?

When you’re ‘Googling’, you want a quick answer to your question. You’re no different to your customers in that! Also, Google wants to serve you results that accurately match your search query.

So, as a business using SEO, you want your website content to provide the best answer to a potential search, therefore ensuring that you are seen and potential punters find their way onto your site. We’re all on the same team, right? 

To make this once equilateral triangle incredibly obtuse, we have to accommodate countless others peacocking to provide the best answer at the same time as you. They all want to provide the best answer just as much as you – just don’t let it be more than you! 

As a fundamental piece in understanding the puzzle that is SEO, let’s wrap our heads around the process that our web pages must go through, in order to rank in the first place. 

WTF Does Google Do?

Every web page goes through a process funnel, starting with ‘crawling’. This is where bots / crawlers / spiders scout the internet to discover and access web pages and the links that live within them. To ensure your page is crawled, you can submit it to Google through Google Search Console, or link to it from your existing indexed content. 

Google examines the content of your page to determine its purpose, including the code, written text, images and videos. 

The quality of the above will contribute to how useful Google determines your content to be so, whilst formatting your web pages, pay particular attention to these elements, ensuring a clean structure, good housekeeping and definitely no broken links. 

Areas of focus to maintain a clean structure should be:

  • Accurate and concise heading hierarchy (no duplicate H1s, H2s & H3s correctly structured)
  • Appropriate use of Meta Data
  • Alt titles for images
  • Correct internal and external linking

Once your page is determined to be of adequate value, Google will index it in its huge database. Think of this as a screening process, to eliminate all spam, misinformation and irrelevant content. 

At this point in theory, your content CAN be found by a user with the correct intent, but there’s a hell of a lot we can do to increase the chances of that happening!

SEO Best Practice

Now, the fun begins… The precise factors examined when ranking web pages for SEO are historically cards that Google has kept close to its chest. The world of SEO moves fast, with characteristics penalised as quickly as they came (we’re looking at you, unrefined AI generated content), algorithm tweaks and sometimes rumours of updates can spread like wildfire. 

What we can share however, is the seldom changing ‘best practice’ to get your SEO journey started: 

Produce genuine & relevant content:

This is absolutely crucial. Your content has to be genuine. It’s a fool’s errand to try to outrank your competitors for terms that suit their niche more accurately than yours, and even if you do manage to secure a higher slot than them – the traffic you have pushed to your site will be unhappy with the result and form a negative opinion of you. Which will probably drive them to your competitors.

When choosing keywords and phrases to rank for, ensure they are relevant to your brand and product and importantly, satisfy the user’s search intent. 

Don’t underestimate keywords:

The keyword research conducted prior to putting finger to keyboard is equally important, if not even more important, than the end result itself. It’s here you’ll determine which keywords and phrases you want to rank for and determine a plan of action in how to rank for them, including the competition you’ll face, difficulty and search volume. 

Once you’ve nailed your target keywords, you need to include them throughout your content with finesse. Not too much, not too little. In the right places. Not in the wrong places.

There’s a real art to getting that balance right – to servicing the needs of the search engines whilst, at the same time, writing something that feels natural and informative to the humans who use the search engines.

AVOID duplicate content: 

This goes for code, page titles, product descriptions, body text, meta data, anywhere that the written word lives on-screen. Duplicate content is penalised heavily in SEO – if the content exists elsewhere (even on your own website as the original author), it can be deemed counterfeit.

Audit your existing content: 

Using a third party SEO tool such as SEMrush, Screaming Frog or Moz, you can produce comprehensive audits of your existing web content. Almost effortlessly, you can identify the gaps in your existing SEO strategy, complete with actions required to correct them. 

DO NOT cram keywords:

Once you’ve been taught the value of keywords, it’s tempting to think that more is better! If you want to rank for X keywords, simply put all of them over and over again in all of the content you produce, right? Wrong. 

Content needs to be produced for humans first and foremost. If your content reads unnaturally, it’s a lose-lose situation. In the early days, algorithms weren’t advanced enough to filter out keyword cramming (and content itself was much more sparse), now with an ever growing backlog of potential webpages to serve queries, keyword cramming lands you directly in the sin-bin. 

On-site housekeeping: 

Whilst SEO places a lot of focus on written content and keywords, user experience and site speed is still an important factor. If your UX is bad, your bounce rate* will inevitably rise, leading Google to believe that your site didn’t hold the answers that users needed (even if it did!). 

*Bounce Rate: Displayed as a percentage, indicating visitors who leave your website after viewing just one page. If 1 in 4 people leave after viewing that one page, your bounce rate is 25%. 

**Whilst we’re on the topic of explaining terminology, we mentioned Dwell Time earlier.
Dwell Time: Also known as avg. time on page, is the total duration a visitor spends on your website before a) returning to the search results, or b) navigating to another page.

As with everything in marketing… Track your results:

When making changes, whether fixing existing content through audits, or uploading brand new content, annotate this in Google Analytics. This way, you’ll be able to see what’s working, and adjust strategy accordingly.


We’ve talked a little about what SEO is, how it works and some of the basics you can start to implement yourself to kickstart your new SEO strategy. Maybe we’ll dig deeper into this in the future. Let us know what you need to know. 

If you’ve made it this far, it would almost be rude not to hit you with an obligatory pick up line … 

You now officially have enough learning to be dangerous, so you’re maybe thinking ‘I simply don’t have time to become an SEO expert, and hiring in-house isn’t an option’.

In which case allow us to chime in: We have had the time to become SEO experts, and we’re a fantastic alternative to hiring in-house. From collaborating with your existing team as a virtual staff member all the way to providing a full consultancy service, we’re ready to propel your brand to new heights of SERP visibility. 

Don’t believe us? Check out some of our case studies! (
This is just one of the tools in CMA’s utility belt. As you ask more questions, we will endeavour to answer them. We’ve already answered WTF is Content Marketing?

What other marketing and business practices have you scratching your noggin and wondering ‘WTF?’. Get in touch and ask us the question – we’ll help you out, and maybe even whip out a quick blog about it!

Mark E. Ting

Hey, I'm Mark E. Ting. Your CMA marketing maestro. Always here to help, 24/7. I love all things content, SEO, design and development. I also have a penchant for lions and fast cars.
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