SEO Marketing: What It Is and How to Get Started

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn more about the importance of SEO when it comes to digital marketing and how to improve your site’s SEO strategy.

[Featured image] An SEO marketer presents a chart to a group at a conference table.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and it's a digital marketing process that entails optimizing your website and its content for greater visibility on search engines like Google.

When someone conducts a search query, such as "data analyst salary" or "what is content marketing," an SEO-friendly site that contains relevant content will rank high on a search engine results page (SERP). In short, when you optimize your site for SEO, you make it easier for internet searchers to find your content, products, and services organically—without the use of paid ads.

In this article, we'll go into more detail about SEO marketing, why it's important, and how to begin implementing it.

What is SEO marketing?

Having an online presence as a company is imperative in the digital age. An SEO marketing strategy makes it easier for search engines like Google and Bing to "crawl" your content and determine how it should rank on SERPs.

SEO tends to fall into three categories:

  • On-page SEO refers to a webpage’s content and how it’s crafted. Search engines are looking for content that is relevant to the keyword, satisfies searcher intent, is well-structured and easy to navigate, and offers information that is authoritative within an industry. 

  • Off-page SEO refers to the backlinks a site acquires. Backlinks occur when other sites link to pages on your site. The more authoritative and relevant, the better for SEO. Over time, backlinks can contribute to your site’s authority and exposure.  

  • Technical SEO refers to the backend aspects of your site, including title tags and meta descriptions that appear in a webpage's source code, the site’s structure and navigation, how pages within a site are linked to one another, and the site’s loading time. 

The goal is to optimize elements in all three of these categories and have them operate harmoniously, so your website and its content gain greater organic visibility.

Learn more: What Is an SEO Consultant and Do You Need One?

Why is SEO marketing important? 

An SEO-friendly site has many benefits, including attracting more consumers in your target market without relying so heavily on paid ads.

1. User experience 

When you’ve optimized your website or e-commerce store, visitors are more likely to enjoy their experience in the following ways:

SEO elementUser experience
Optimized site architecture and navigationClicking from one page of the site to another with ease
Optimized content on every pageReading a webpage easily, absorbing authoritative and relevant information, taking actions such as subscribing to emails, filling out a contact form, or making a purchase
Faster load timesClicking and scrolling faster with minimal delays in viewing information

2. Visibility

Where you rank on SERP matters. The first organic (unpaid) search result on Google receives 27.6 percent of clicks, according to Backlinko [1]. There also tends to be a significant decline in clicks for results on the second page, meaning that appearing on the first page is better and appearing Ninety-five percent of clicks on Google go to organic search results, according to Semrush [2].

3. Organic traffic

Paid ads are one way to drive traffic to your site, but this can be an expensive option. According to the social media management platform Hootsuite, social media ad spend is on a steady incline, with the total ad spend expected to reach over $173 million in 2022 [3]. Statista, a market and consumer data provider, reports that search advertising spending in the US has increased from $54.8 billion in 2019 to $95.2 billion in 2022 [4].

By using an SEO digital marketing strategy, you can rank well in search results and attract more organic (free) traffic to your site, meaning people find and click on your content without paid ads. What's more, 95 percent of clicks on Google go to organic search results, according to Semrush [2]. In addition, you can become a trusted source of information in the marketplace, which can increase the effectiveness of your paid ads.  

Did you know? Improving your site’s organic search traffic can reduce the costs of acquiring customers by 87 percent, according to a report by Terakeet, a marketing technology platform [4].


4. Customer insights 

Much of running a successful business is knowing what customers want. You can gain customer insights throughout the SEO marketing process, including: 

  • Keyword research about the terms customers are searching, from questions asking how and why to the names of products and brands

  • Understanding searcher intent or why customers search for particular keywords 

  • Learning what content drives actions such as subscribing or purchasing products 

How to build an SEO marketing strategy

In this section, you’ll begin the process of improving your website’s content, domain authority, and technical elements, with the goal of making your site more discoverable and useful for your target audience. Follow the steps below to get started.   

1. Analyze your competitors.

Just as you perform a competitive analysis to identify market gaps and differentiate your products and marketing efforts, you’ll need to investigate and analyze competitors’ SEO. That way, you can give yourself a competitive edge when it comes to your site and its content.  

  • Make a list of your competitors, including ones you’re already familiar with and ones that rank at the top of SERPs for keywords related to your products and services.   

  • Audit competitors’ web content, site structure, and navigation, as well as user-experience features like call-to-action buttons and page design. How authoritative is the content? How easy is it to click around, find information, and take action?    

  • Use an SEO tool like SEMRush, Ahrefs, or Moz to determine what keywords these competitors are ranking for on each webpage, including secondary or related keywords and the search volume for each one.

  • Find out what meta tags your competitors are using by right-clicking anywhere on their sites, and selecting “view page source” from the menu that pops up.  

Read more: What Is Competitor Analysis? Definition + Step-by-Step Guide


2. Understand your target audience from an SEO perspective.

Once you understand your competitors, it's important to consider your audience, including what they search for online and the intent behind it, so that you can generate content your audience finds relevant.

  • Install a Google Chrome extension, such as MozBar or Keyword Surfer, to explore relevant keywords. These tools allow you to conduct keyword research right from your browser while viewing SERPs.  

  • Use SEMRush to determine searcher intent for each keyword, including navigational (looking for a specific site), informational (looking for information or answers to a question), transactional (intending to complete an action or make a purchase), and commercial (intending to investigate products).  

  • Analyze SERPs to discover what questions searchers ask, related searches and questions, featured snippets that Google predicts searchers will click on, and more. 

3. Create SEO-friendly content. 

Creating SEO-friendly content that your target audience finds valuable is the result of consistent effort. You’ll want to optimize every page of your website, including the home page, about page, and other static pages, as well as blogs, articles, sales pages, and lead capture landing pages. 

  • Written content should include unique, authoritative information that satisfies searcher intent for a particular keyword. 

  • Integrate the keyword and related keywords into your subheadings and text seamlessly and grammatically, without overusing them. 

  • Structure the content on each page to provide a logical and easy-to-navigate reading experience. This means using subheadings, bullet points, and numbered lists to organize information into smaller sections that are easy to find and skim.  

  • Embed relevant images, graphics, and videos to enhance the reading experience. 

  • Include links to other relevant pages of your site in anchor text.

  • Include helpful calls-to-action to make it easy for site visitors to subscribe, fill out forms, and make purchases.  

4. Improve your technical SEO.

Businesses often work with web developers or IT professionals to improve their sites’ technical SEO. If you have access to your site’s admin panel, you may be able to make these improvements or fix issues yourself. Start by logging into your website’s admin panel, where you’ll find different options for updating your site’s settings, including metadata and navigation menus. 

For each webpage, follow these steps: 

  • Craft a title tag that includes the keyword you want the page to rank for, and that clearly describes the content of each page in 50 to 60 characters.

  • Craft a page description that contains the keyword, summarizes the page, and conveys the page’s unique value, in up to 160 characters.

  • Reduce the size of images so that they load quickly. For example, if your image is 5,000 pixels wide, you might reduce it to 2,000 or 1,200 pixels. 

  • Name image files with keywords and descriptions and separate each word with a hyphen. For example, if the image is automatically saved to your device as “image1.jpg,” rename it to “dark-roast-coffee.jpg.” 

For the site as a whole, follow these steps: 

  • Set up a clear navigation menu to help site visitors find pages.

  • Create a site map with information about your site’s pages, videos, and files, and the relationship between them. 

  • Create a Google Search Console account and submit your site map, so that Google can crawl your site more effectively.  

5. Acquire relevant, authoritative backlinks. 

To improve your off-page SEO, create a plan for getting other sites to link to your content. 

  • Make a list of sites that are relevant to your website, not competitors, and have high domain authority. 

  • Reach out to these site creators or content managers to request backlinks. Be sure to offer an incentive, such as high-quality content to improve upon what they’re currently linking to or proposing a topic for a guest blog post you want to write for them. 

  • Post pages from your site to social media and include links in your email marketing, not only to get more clicks but also to increase the chances that other sites will choose to link to your content. 

Improve your SEO marketing skills with Coursera 

If you’re ready to master SEO practices for the long term, consider taking online courses. Doing so can be a great way to build SEO skills, produce authoritative content in your niche, rank higher in search results, and attract more potential customers to your site.

Explore these options: 

Article sources


Backlinko. "Here's What We Learned About Organic Click Through Rate," Accessed March 30, 2023.

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