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The ABCs of SEO: A Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine

Having worked at PH Digital Web agency in Montreal and specialized in digital marketing for several years, we have often encountered clients and newcomers who are overwhelmed by the vast world of SEO. So, let’s take a step back and demystify this powerful digital tool that has transformed the online landscape.

What is SEO?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a term that was once foreign to us. But over the years, it has become the cornerstone of our professional life. Simply put, SEO is the art and science of optimizing websites and digital content to improve visibility on search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

But it’s more than just a technical exercise. SEO bridges the gap between what users are looking for and the content that businesses produce. It ensures that relevant content reaches the right audience, making the vast digital universe a bit more navigable.

How Search Engines Work

Search engines felt like enigmatic entities when we first started. But as we delved deeper, the mechanics became clearer.

Crawling: This is the discovery phase. Search engine bots, like Google’s spiders, traverse the internet, examining billions of pages.

Indexing: Once crawled, these pages are organized or ‘indexed’. Think of this as cataloging a book in a vast digital library.

Ranking: When a user types in a query, the search engine sifts through its index and presents the most relevant results. The determination of relevance is based on complex algorithms that weigh various factors.

Why is SEO Important?

Early in our careers, we would often ask: In the age of digital advertising, does SEO still matter? The answer is a resounding yes.

Organic Traffic: SEO drives organic traffic, which is often the primary source of visitors for many websites. These users actively search for content, making them highly engaged.

Trust & Credibility: Sites that rank well are often perceived as more trustworthy by users. SEO builds your site’s trustworthiness over time.

Better User Experience: SEO isn’t just about search engines; it’s also about users. Proper SEO ensures better user experience, leading to higher engagement rates.

Increased Engagement & Conversions: Local SEO strategies target specific regions, promoting products and services at precisely the right time, leading to better engagement and conversions.

What Are the Main Goals of SEO?

Increase Visibility: The primary goal of SEO is to improve site visibility in search engines. The higher a site ranks, the more easily users can find it.

Drive Quality Traffic: It’s not just about quantity but also about quality. Effective SEO strategies pull in users who are genuinely interested in what you offer.

Boost Site Usability: A well-optimized site is also user-friendly, enabling visitors to navigate easily and find what they’re looking for.

Establish Brand Authority: A well-ranked site is often perceived as more authoritative in its industry or niche.

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What Are the Top Organic Search Ranking Factors?

The list of ranking factors is vast and continually evolving. But after years of experience and rigorous testing, some factors have remained consistently crucial:

Content Quality: High-quality, relevant content is king. It’s the foundation on which other SEO elements stand. These are links from other websites pointing to yours.

Backlinks These are links from other websites pointing to yours. Quality backlinks from authoritative sites signal trustworthiness to search engines.

Mobile-Friendliness: With the increasing shift to mobile browsing, having a mobile-responsive site is crucial.

Page Speed: A slow-loading site can deter users, and search engines take note of this.

Technical SEO: This includes elements like XML sitemaps, structured data, and HTTPS encryption, ensuring search engines can easily crawl and index your site.

User Experience Signals: Metrics like click-through rate, bounce rate, and dwell time offer insights into user behavior and site quality.

What is E-E-A-T?

Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) have become the guiding principles of my SEO endeavors. Google introduced E-E-A-T as part of its Search Quality Guidelines, and its importance has grown tremendously.

Experience: Authors who have proven experience with the subject.

Expertise: Your content must reflect expert knowledge. This is where my years of experience and continuous learning at PH Digital Web agency come into play. Being an expert is about staying updated and ensuring that your content reflects this.

Authoritativeness: Being an expert is one thing, but being recognized by your peers and other authoritative figures in your industry is another. This can be gauged through quality backlinks, mentions, and shared content.

Trustworthiness: Ensure your content is accurate and can be trusted by users. This involves referencing reliable sources and keeping content updated.

Embarking on the SEO journey might seem daunting. But with each campaign we’ve executed and each site we’ve optimized, we’ve seen the transformative power of SEO. It’s about understanding both machines and humans, bridging gaps, and making connections. The intricate dance of algorithms, content, and user intent, while complex, holds the promise of unparalleled digital growth.


SEO Term




The set of rules and calculations search engines use to determine the ranking of websites on their results page.



An inbound link from another website pointing to a page on your site. A signal of trust and authority.



Text, images, videos, and any other media used to convey information on a website. Central to SEO. Essentiel au SEO.


Domain Authority

A score predicting how well a website will rank on search engine result pages



How users interact with a website, including time on site, pages per session, and bounce rate.



How recent or updated the content is. Newer content can be more relevant to users.


Google Analytics

A tool to analyze website traffic and understand user behavior.



The standard markup language used to create web pages, essential for SEO optimizations.



The process of a search engine adding a page to its database.



A programming language that can affect how content is displayed and indexed.



Terms or phrases users type into search engines. Central to SEO strategies.



The process of acquiring backlinks to boost domain authority and rankings.


Meta Tags

HTML tags providing metadata about a webpage. Essential for SEO, especially the meta description.


Nofollow Link

A link that doesn’t pass SEO value to the linked site. It tells search engines not to count it as an endorsement.


On-Page SEO

Optimizations made directly on a webpage, including content, meta tags, and internal linking.


Page Speed

How quickly a web page loads. A crucial factor for user experience and SEO.



The term or phrase users type into a search engine.



The position a website holds on search engine results pages.


Schema Markup

A semantic vocabulary of tags that can be added to HTML to improve how search engines read and represent a page.


Technical SEO

Backend optimizations, like site speed, mobile optimization, and indexing.


URL Structure

The format of a web page’s address. A clear structure can aid in user experience and SEO.


Voice Search Optimization

Optimizing for search queries made through voice assistants.


White Hat SEO

Ethical SEO practices that abide by search engine guidelines.


XML Sitemap

A document that helps search engines better understand website structure.


Yoast SEO

A popular WordPress plugin for on-page SEO optimization.


Zero-Click Search

A search result where the user’s query is answered directly on the SERP, resulting in no clicks to websites.

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